Ryan Golden thought the men’s basketball team was out of the OUA East playoff picture after losing 66-62 to the York Lions last month.
At the time, the Gaels were 0-12 and six points behind the final playoff spot. They lost their next four games to fall to 0-16.
But the Gaels won two straight games over the Royal Military College Paladins last weekend to improve to 2-16. They’re heading into the last four games of the regular season just two points behind the 3-15 Lions for the conference’s sixth and final playoff spot.
“After we lost [to York] … we were sort of kicking ourselves because we had the game, and we lost it,” Golden, a second-year guard, said. “However, the way things have gone … we’re only one game back right now.”
To get the sixth spot, the Gaels will have to beat the Lions by at least five points when they meet in Toronto on Feb. 17. If they win, they will tie York for sixth place and will win a tiebreaker on head-to-head point differential.
But since the Lions still get to play the Paladins one more time — York beat RMC 107-49 on Jan. 13 — the Gaels will likely have to win an additional game.
The Gaels host the OUA East’s second-place Ottawa Gee-Gees tonight. On Saturday, Queen’s is up against the Carleton Ravens, the country’s top-ranked team.
Next weekend, they will hit the road to take on the Lions and the fourth-place Laurentian Voyageurs to close out the regular season.
Golden said he’s confident heading down the stretch — even in tonight’s matchup against a Gee-Gees squad that beat the Gaels 87-58 three weeks ago.
“Last time we played them we just didn’t bring nearly as much as we could have,” he said. “Then there’s Laurentian and York, and we can take both of those [teams].
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we have the potential and the ability to win.”
But head coach Stephan Barrie said he’s not thinking about the post-season. He said he didn’t read too deeply into last weekend’s 84-43 and 72-41 wins over RMC because the Paladins are 0-18 and have lost by an average of 53 points per game.
“It was the one [time] at this point where our talent level was better than the opponents’,” he said. “That ends up having an impact on the game, no matter what.”
Barrie said the Gaels have to pick up their play if they even want to consider making the playoffs.
“In order for us to beat Laurentian or Ottawa and then beat York on the road, we’re going to have to get better,” he said.
Forward Nikola Misljencevic, who leads the Gaels with 12.6 points per game, said his team has already improved significantly this season.
“As a young team with a new coach, it was going to take some time to adjust,” he said. “But I think that we’re getting around to that right now.”
Misljencevic said the Gaels have been more competitive recently because they’ve done more scouting in the second half of the season.
“The second time playing [teams] … you get to know the players a bit better,” he said. “That will help us the second time we play Ottawa, Laurentian, and [York].”
Misljencevic said their second games against the Toronto Varsity Blues and the Ryerson Rams were good examples of the team’s improved play — the Gaels went from losing by a combined to 41 points to a combined nine points.
This weekend’s games against Ottawa and Carleton both tip off at 8 p.m. at the ARC.
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