Despite a hot 6-1 start to the season, men’s basketball struggled in their return to the hardwood with a 70-61 home loss against the McGill Redmen.
In the exhibition match-up, the Gaels tried to shake off the rust gathered over the winter break, as they hadn’t played a game since Nov. 28. Against a formidable opponent in the Redmen — ranked third in the CIS — the hosts were tested before returning to conference action next weekend.
After the game, Coach Stephan Barrie said he was glad the team got to play an unofficial game before heading into the final stretch of the season.
“This was good preparation for us,” Barrie said. “If you don’t play a game in a long period of time it’s a different kind of adrenaline — for them to have been winded is not surprising.”
For the coaching staff, their concern wasn’t the team’s lack of rhythm and flow coming out of the break, but rather their troubles on the defensive glass and at the charity stripe.
The chances to jump back into the game came aplenty for the Gaels, but they failed to capitalize on critical moments.
“If we don’t give up 23 offensive rebounds and shoot 11-for-21 from the free-throw line, we have a chance to steal that game,” Barrie said. The home side allowed a total of 18 points off of turnovers and second-chance opportunities.
Despite of the loss, the 6-1 record has been the best start in the program’s recent history. Barrie praised the team’s cohesiveness and chemistry, adding that this year’s mindset is unparalleled to past seasons.
“It’s a group that we play, usually, nine to 11 guys a game,” he said of the team’s flexible rotation. “Everyone knows on any given night they may have an impact to win the game … the guys are tight that way.”
This mantra held true on Saturday afternoon, with nine of Queen’s players playing 10 or more minutes on the floor.
In years past, there was a shortfall of confidence in the Gaels’ play, but this season, the team has headed into each game with a new type of poise. The team has slowly fortified their reputation amongst the CIS and become a force to be reckoned with — and their record shows it.
“[The record] makes the guys understand that they can beat any team in the country,” Barrie said. “And they have to go in with that mindset: that they’re going to go in and win every game.”
The bitter end to the past season, where the Gaels lost their last five games, finishing at the bottom of their division with a 5-19 record, is no longer on players’ minds. They came in to start the season with a fresh outlook.
“Last year, we’d go in hoping to keep it close and maybe steal it — guys don’t feel that way this year,” Barrie said.
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