That prefaces any #HotTakes about the No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees defeating the No. 3 Carleton Ravens 78-72 on Friday, earning both their first Capital Hoops Classic win and first regular-season series sweep of the OUA's longtime lodestar since 2007. The result will not do much damage to No. 1 Ryerson's lead in the RPI that determines OUA playoff seeding, which factored into why Ottawa wing Caleb Agada was scratched after testing his sore ankle in the warmup. Notwithstanding that, it was the inevitable aggressive affray Carleton and Ottawa are known for when they get on the big stage in front of 10,105 people. Fifth-year point guard Mike L'Africain hooped nine of his game-high 23 points during a 22-12 Gee-Gees third quarter, and Ottawa's ball movement set up utility forward Matt Plunkett to hit three fourth-quarter triples on his way to 14 in 22 minutes. Carleton, which had 19 apiece from point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane and small forward Guillaume Boucard, chiseled a 13-point mid-fourth quarter deficit to four in the final seconds.
"Last year we beat them at home, the year before we beat them [in the 2014 OUA Wilson Cup], and nobody knows, right?" L'Africain said. "This is the game where everybody comes. This does a lot for our program, a lot for our school and a lot for the city of Ottawa.
"Every game is a new, complete game, though," L'Africain added. "Confidence-wise, it feels good. We win this game, everybody loves us for a little bit. We still have one goal [the CIS championship], one last thing to do on our bucket list."
First, the big picture stuff.
"The reason why this victory feels good is because of Carleton's dominance, not only with us but within basketball," said Gee-Gees coach James Derouin, who was a Gee-Gees assistant coach when they scored their only other Capital Hoops win in the inaugural edition in 2007. "Any win against them is great. That's a testament to their dominance. If we beat someone else it's different. This team has got like a 95 per cent winning percentage over the last 15 years. Any time you beat a team this good is special and it's extra-special when you do it in this environment.
"But we're different this year. We're looking to the future. We have a veteran group and we want to win in March. And I think they understand that."
Ottawa stretched out a 28-27 halftime lead largely though tighter ball movement and resolute rebounding. With fifth-year guard Mehdi Tihani (13 points, team-high four assists) taking on more lead-guard responsibility, they had only three of their 13 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. They also limited the Ravens to three second-half offensive rebounds in the second half after allowing 12 in the first 20 minutes.
Carleton shot an effective 58.8 per cent after the break after a ghastly 29.3 in the first half, but the patented Ravens run never materialized. Gavin Resch added 12 points (4-of-9 on threes) and Connor Wood added 10, but was 4-of-14 from the floor.
Agada's absence was covered well by Ottawa's complementary players, with temporary starting wing Mackenzie Morrison contributing eight rebounds in 33 minutes. Brandon Robinson added some athleticism on each end.
"The guy for me tonight was Mackenzie Morrison," Gee-Gees coach James Derouin said. "I felt like his defense was phenomenal, diving on loose balls and winning 50/50 rebounds. Caleb usually gets these balls, gets us 10 total rebounds, eight defensive, and today Mackenzie got us those balls. That's what you hope for in these games, that a guy steps up. That will be great for us moving forward."
The two Ottawa rivals' trip next week to No. 4 Brock and No. 7 McMaster are their only toughies left before the OUA playoffs. (The Ravens go into Brock first, while the Gee-Gees' Friday game is at Mac.) It looks like Ottawa will be stronger for this stretch without Agada.
"It means a lot to win without Caleb," L'Africain said. "I know everyone counted us out and that Ryerson game helped us a lot and it helped out our role players, and when Caleb gets back we'll be that much stronger."
Other shallow, fairly obvious observations:
- As Plunkett goes, so too do Ottawa's chances of beating Carleton. That goes back to when the Barrie native had three triples in the 68-66 win at Montpetit Hall last January.
"It's the second game in a row against Carleton that I felt he's been the X-factor," Derouin said. "When he plays with a chip on his shoulder and plays with confidence he's huge for us. He was awesome for us. His confidence mostly revolves around whether he makes threes. If he doesn't make one he can drop out of the game. He's an underrated athlete. He doesn't look like it with that man bun but he is a great athlete."
- Say little when you win and even less when you lose, right? That is the 2016 working definition of duende. Carleton had a closed-door meeting afterward, which is understandable after their third loss in six games.
They are still 5-4 against Ottawa over the last three seasons, including decisive wins in the last two national finals.
- Phil Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb, Victor Raso, Tyson Hinz, Clinton Springer-Williams, Kevin Churchill ... Not even Carleton can cover for such turnover over two seasons. They are still a Top 5 team despite losing three games by a combined margin of 25 points to the country's two best teams.
The rub is, being Top 5 when the OUA can only send three teams to the Final 8 might not be good enough.
- Ottawa's bench outscored Carleton's 27-8. That is different from the past. Four of the five Ravens starters played at least 34 minutes. That's a Stu Turnbull workload.
- Brathan McMaracle, Ottawa's two-headed centre, had 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks while hitting 6-of-8 shots. Ottawa made a strong power move by going right to Nathan McCarthy (nine points, five boards) at the start of the third quarter. Brody Maracle saved a fourth-quarter possession when Tihani lost his dribble while driving late in the shot clock by catching the ball and flipping in an over-the-shoulder shot.
"There were some elements there where you go, 'maybe it's our night,' " Derouin said.
- About Agada taking the warmup: Those with an overactive imagination, guilty as charged, might have wondered if Derouin was playing some mind game, but there's probably too much respect in this rivalry for that.
"Caleb's been sidelined for three weeks and he just wanted to be part of the team tonight," Derouin said. "We were going to take a look at it the warmup tonight. He sort of gave me the 'it's not going to happen' look in the warmup. I wasn't really considering it. Win or lose tonight, we need him for March."
- Another post-game curiosity. L'Africain played a game-high 38 minutes, leaving briefly with about two minutes left while Ottawa was milking the clock.
"If you guys remember a really good player named Johnny Berhanemeskel, we used to play a lot of 1-on-1," L'Africain said, referring to last season's Moser Trophy honoree. "One time he hit my elbow and I got a bit of nerve damage — whenever it gets hit, I still can't feel my right hand. It gets numb, then I'm fine."
- Ottawa's last three wins against Carleton were all one-shot games, including two that Berhanemeskel won with last-second shots. This was more decisive.
- About the women's basketball Ravens' 73-50 beatdown of Ottawa earlier in the evening. Carleton looks like it has done an 180 since double-digit losses to the Gee-Gees and Ryerson, having now beaten nationally ranked teams in their last two starts. Six-foot-three centre Heather Lindsay had 18 points and 15 rebounds, while wing Elizabeth Leblanc was one board off a double-double with 15 and nine. The Queen's and Ottawa wins might be the best back-to-back efforts by Taffe Charles' team in a good while.
For whatever reason, the Gee-Gees, who were practically brazen with its outside shooting when it beat a very quick Ryerson team in its gym was shellshocked, shooting an effective 28 per cent (12-of-42 on twos, 3-of-17 on threes). Once-a-year arena games can be a tough adjustment, but they were cold for 40 minutes.
- The women's games at Capital Hoops have often been slow-starting and low-scoring. Along with adapting to not having a close backdrop, the players also have to contend with starting the game in a nearly empty hockey arena. You would likely never hear a complaint from a player about it, but it's a factor. Only this time, it wasn't for the Ravens. Ottawa took 8:42 to get its first basket. Meantime, on the evening the Ravens starting five of Lindsay, Leblanc, Stephanie Carr, Nicole Gilmore and lefty forward Lindsay Shotbolt shot an effective 55.7%.