Pretty standard, really, for when the Ravens and their familiar foils tip off in Ontario University Athletics men's basketball. Saturday's night tilt was essentially a prequel for the Feb. 5 Capital Hoops Classic and at least one post-season showdown at the OUA Wilson Cup and/or CIS Final . Minutes after his last-minute fadeaway jumper that capped the game-ending 8-2 run, Gee-Gees point guard Mike L'Africain acknowledged the CIS hoops hierarchy doesn't change on Jan. 16
"It's a statement win but to us it doesn't really mean anything until the other games because we've been here," said L'Africain, who had 17 points, three steals and a 6-to-3 assist/turnover ratio. "I've never done this one. We've never got a win here. But I felt we kept our composure."
L'Africain has made some sweet dishes in his day, but a mishap while washing dishes on Thursday nearly affected his availability. The fifth-year floor leader played with bandages on the thumb and index finger of his shooting hand.
"What happened was I have this one glass and I'm a very suspicious guy," he said. "You know who there's so much soap in the water you can't see anything underneath it? And I dropped it and I tried to be a hero and catch it real quick, but it dropped so fast and smashed on the bottom and I got cut.
"I was in Emergency for 12 hours. So for Capital Hoops [in three weeks], I'll be able to shoot better. It was numb and shaking, but these are the games where you can't sit off."
It's not unheard of for Carleton to lose, but it is unheard of for them to get outrebounded 43-32, which included the Gee-Gees retrieving 18 of their own misses. It took a toll, though, since floor leader Caleb Agada completed a 23-point, 10-rebound effort by gutting out the last minute with a twisted ankle sustained during a rebound battle. Essentially, Ottawa proved a point although it chance of holding serve in next week's Toronto/Ryerson road trip might have diminished.
"I didn't think we overly celebrated," Gee-Gees coach James Derouin said. "I'm hoping that our veterans understand 'good job, and move on. We might have to go into Toronto without Caleb, but it's a good stepping stone."
Carleton got 24 points and six assists from Kaza Kajami-Keane and 20 from guard Guillaume Boucard, who each had tough misses in the last two minutes. The Ravens were unable to get a good look on the final possession. It was their first OUA loss at the Ravens' Nest since a 95-81 setback against Tut Ruach and the York Lions on Jan. 27, 2007, nearly nine years ago.
"There's a bucket list with these guys," Derouin said "Winning in this gym is on that list."
Other takeaways and shallow, fairly obvious observations:
- Keane, the Cleveland State transfer, took over at times, getting his 24 on 11-of-16. He also twice pulled off the classic Carleton manoeuvre of sliding into the path of a driving-and-dishing player to draw offensive fouls on Agada. To his credit, after getting his third late in the third quarter, Agada didn't pick up another.
- We need to talk about Caleb, or more specifically, his barely buzzer-beating breakaway dunk at the end of the second quarter. The clock was down to fewer than 2.0 seconds when he crossed the time line, but Agada is so deceptively fast that he had time to throw it down and beat the halftime horn, in the officials' estimation. The kneejerk reaction was that he cut it close with the dunk instead of a layup. Then again, a layup at top speed is easier said than done.
- Ryan Ejim was a truth for long stretches, as the Ravens power forward hooped 14 points in 26 minutes and denied the Gee-Gees the post entry. "He made it almost impossible to get it inside," Derouin said. "He made some big plays. If we're going to beat them again, we have to find a way to use [centres] Nathan McCarthy and Brody Maracle more."
- By Carleton math, being even on the rebound count is considered a fail. One can only imagine how the Gee-Gees grabbing 18-of-41 available off their own misses went over in the room. Carleton's 6-foot-11 post, Cam Smythe, played only 10 minutes and wasn't a factor. The other four starters all played at least 30. Veteran guards Connor Wood (eight points on 3-of-10) and Gavin Resch (two points, game-high seven rebounds) had off nights.
- Another 'when was the last time we saw that?' stat: the Ravens only got to the line seven times, finishing 6-of-7 to Ottawa's 19-of-27. It wasn't for a lack of strong takes from Kajami-Keane or Boucard, who's a matchup nightmare as shooting guard playing the 4-spot.
No doubt that came up during the long post-game meeting Carleton interim coach Rob Smart conducted.
The Ravens are at No. 5 Ryerson in their next outing on Jan. 22. Typically, no one wants to face a Carleton team that just lost.
- Ottawa is trying to effect a carefully cultivated grittiness after, frankly, wearing down last March, when it lost the OUA semifinal at home to Windsor, needed overtime to vanquish Bishop's in a Final 8 first-round game and lost the national championship game 93-46 to Carleton. Lack of a suitable matchup meant fifth-year combo forward Vikas Gill played limited minutes, but Ottawa still showed some rebounding depth. McCarthy typically starts, while Maracle (six points, two boards in 23 minutes) and Matt Plunkett (6 and 7 in 28) forming a second wave."When Matt plays with that edge, he gives us that third rebounder, alongside Caleb and Nathan/Brody," Derouin said. "I thought Plunkett was the difference in the game tonight. He came away with big, two-handed rebounds."
- The Gee-Gees shot 54.3 per cent from two-point land, which some would joke is typically inside their range. Mehdi Tihani's 13 points (including 3-of-4 from deep) was very unsung.
All in all, a very good premiere episode for CIS basketball's long-running drama.