The 1,500 spectators in attendance at Bartlett Gym on Friday night rose to their feet and gave the men’s basketball team a standing ovation at the game’s conclusion, despite the team’s 71-58 loss to the high-flying Carleton Ravens.
A regular Friday-night home game wouldn’t have drawn such a crowd, nor would a loss typically earn such applause—but this was no ordinary game.
The Ravens are a powerhouse in men’s basketball, with a five-year string of national championships. This year’s edition is no less competitive; the Ravens came into the game with a 14-0 record.
The Gaels kept the score close throughout the first half and went into the locker room trailing the Ravens by only four points.
In the third quarter, excellent defensive play by Carleton limited the Queen’s scorers. Despite a gutsy fourth-quarter effort by the Gaels, the Ravens pulled away and finished with a 13-point lead.
Rookie Travis Mitchell was the Gaels’ top scorer, contributing 20 points, including five three-point shots. Mitch Leger added 12 points and Simon Mitchell scored 11.
Coach Rob Smart said despite the heightened attention being paid to the game, the results are meaningless.
“In a way this was the least important game of the schedule,” he said. “They’ve beaten everybody, so you really can’t lose ground on the teams you’re trying to catch if you lose to them.” Smart said he wasn’t pleased with the result.
“I’m not big on moral victories,” he said. “A win would have been nice.”
Veteran guard Simon Mitchell said he was pleased with the outcome.
“It was pretty good for the most part,” he said. “The last couple years they’ve beaten us by 30 or more, and it was close until the last five minutes. Being able to compete with them, I’m happy enough.” On Saturday night the team travelled to the Royal Military College and easily beat the 0-16 Paladins by a score of 81-49.
The Gaels demonstrated dominant play both offensively and defensively. They limited their opponents to 22 points in the first half and had five players score in double-digits, including rookie guard Dan Bannister who led the way with a season-high 17 points. The win vaulted the Gaels into fourth place in the OUA East.
Assistant coach Duncan Cowan praised his players for their focus throughout the game.
“The guys did a good job of concentrating, particularly on defence,” he said. “It was a good follow-up coming the night after the Carleton game. They had a high energy level.”
Up next for the men is a Tuesday night home game against the 13-3 Ottawa Gee-Gees, who are second in the OUA East behind Carleton.
Leger said he’s confident his team can win as long as their high quality of play continues.
“If we play the way we did [against Carleton], we’ll have a great chance of winning,” he said. “[The Carleton game] wasn’t a must-win for us because they beat everyone, but if we beat Ottawa it will be good for us for positioning for playoffs.”
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