B-ball battles Ottawa

Women prevail while men falter

Last weekend, the Gaels shut up all the talk of inconsistency that has surrounded their team so far this season. Indeed, it was broom and dustpan time in Bartlett Gym as the Queen’s women’s basketball team swept games against Carleton and Ottawa.

And don’t let the men’s two weekend losses fool you. The slightly darker cloud that hangs over a team that fell to two of the nation’s top five basketball programs offers more silver lining than a NASA seamstress.

But first, those victorious women, whose third straight victory vaulted them into second place in the OUA East.

On Friday night, Queen’s kicked off its home swing with a tough start against Carleton. The Gaels, who played from behind most of the game, allowed the Ravens to jump out on a 10-2 run. It was not, however, because Queen’s was overwhelmed. Rather, in a first half where the Gaels worked the ball well for good, open shots, they had early trouble finishing.

This team did not stay cold for long. They pounced on an opportunity when Carleton’s star guard Dasa Farthing was forced to the bench with early foul trouble. The Queen’s offence soon began running on all cylinders, and a 15-2 burst took them into the locker room down by just four.

The Gaels came out flat in the second half, however, making uncharacteristic turnovers and allowing Carleton to build upon its narrow lead. After Queen’s calmed down, their comeback began. Paced by balanced offensive efforts from Sarah Barnes and Claire Meadows, Queen’s took the lead and did not bow to a late Carleton run. Impressively, point guard Jaime Dale committed only one turnover against the notoriously high-pressure Carleton defense. On this night, Queen’s overcame mental lapses and completed the comeback to win 50-45.

Head coach Dave Wilson commented after the game on his team’s mental toughness and composure.

“Handling pressure is nothing simple,” he told the Journal. “And we’ve gotten better at it as we’ve gained confidence and experience against trapping defenses and things of that nature.”

The next night, the Gaels again fell behind early, made a big second-half run, and came out with a hard-fought victory. Despite an impressive effort at the defensive end, Queen’s went into halftime down 29-21.

“[At halftime] we talked about our own sloppiness,” Wilson said. “We just refocused, took care of the ball, and found our rhythm.” This rhythm amounted to an 11-1 Gaels run to start the second half. After that, the squad never looked back, holding Ottawa to a single field goal in the final eight minutes. In the end, behind a double-double from Barnes, Queen’s extended its win streak to three, winning 53-42 and pushing the team record to 4-2.

Despite two losses, the men’s weekend was not all bad news.

Friday night’s game against Canada’s top team, the Carleton Ravens, offered plenty of storylines. Unfortunately, one of them was not the end of Carleton’s three year 83-game winning streak.

Nonetheless, the game saw Gaels’ head coach Rob Smart strategizing against brother Dave, the Ravens’ head coach. The fraternity didn’t end there, as Gaels’ guard Kyle McLeery faced off against brothers Shawn and Kevin. Of course, none of this has much to do with basketball.

The game itself, which drew enough spectators to warrant a rare bleacher expansion, was over before it started. The experienced and talented Ravens quickly quieted the raucous crowd, opening up a 10-point lead in the first four minutes. This was followed by a devastating 20-2 Carleton run which set the stage for an uncompetitive second half and a 67-44 Queen’s loss.

Saturday night, on the other hand, was truly encouraging for Gaels’ hoop fans, who saw the return of 2003-04 OUA East Rookie of the Year, Simon Mitchell. Behind a team-leading 12 points from Mitchell, who delivered the consistent scoring threat the Gaels have missed, Queen’s stayed close against the fifth-ranked Gee-Gees. However, what seemed like a momentum-swinging second-half for the Gaels was stopped short by crucial mental lapses, as well as a controversial timeout awarded to Ottawa when their possession of the ball was questionable. In the end the Gaels were out-sized, out-skilled, and out-scored 60-47.

The losses dropped the men’s record to 1-5. Opportunity knocks again next weekend, however, with the less dominant Toronto and Ryerson visiting.

Jesse Dallal hopes Simon says “win” for the Gaels.

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