Gaels keep rolling

Men’s basketball dominates on the road, women split away matches

The men’s basketball team’s quest for second place in the OUA East Division took a giant leap forward on the weekend.

In a pair of away games, the Gaels defeated the York Lions 78-56 on Friday behind 22 points and 10 rebounds from guard Simon Mitchell, and pummelled the Laurentian Voyageurs 87-48 the following night.

The men raced out to a 49-25 halftime lead and held the Lions to just 29.7 per cent shooting throughout the game. York star point guard Tut Ruach shot just six-for-20 from the field.

The injury-riddled Gaels dressed only eight players: point guard Baris Ondul continues to nurse a groin injury, while centre Patrick Beswick suffered a concussion in practice last week.

Assistant coach Duncan Cowan said the men shot much better than they had in previous games.

“We had been struggling with injuries and shooting the ball, but we shot almost 60 per cent in the first half,” he said, adding that injuries were affecting even the players who made it on the road trip.

“Tim Boyle was throwing up on the sideline most of the York game.”

It was a similar story the next night, as the Gaels went on an 18-0 run to start the second quarter and lead the Voyageurs 46-22 at halftime. In all, the Gaels outscored the Voyageurs 39-3 from beyond the arc.

Cowan said he was pleased with the team’s effort on the weekend.

“It was two games we had to have,” he said.

Mitch Leger turned in two more impressive performances, scoring 20 points on Friday and adding a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds on Saturday.

Leger has now scored 20-plus points in six consecutive games.

Cowan said Leger’s shot selection improved against York and Laurentian.

“He did a lot more of the little things this weekend. He defended much better, he was more active on help defence and he took a better selection of shots. When Mitch really plays well is when he mixes up where he’s scoring from. … It’s when he’s attacking from different spots.”

Leger attributed his play to the system the Gaels swear by.

“The way we play you get open shots whenever you want—it’s about choosing the right open shots.

“Some of them are good, but if we work hard enough then we’ll get great looks.”

The men will welcome Ondul back from injury this weekend against Ryerson and Toronto.

The Gaels are fourth in the OUA East but sit only two points behind the Varsity Blues and four points from the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Leger said Ondul’s presence should give the team a lift.

“He can shut down the other team’s point guard whenever he wants,” he said.

The women’s team had mixed results over the weekend, losing 82-68 to York before rebounding to defeat Laurentian in a thrilling finish, 73-71.

On Saturday the Gaels took a 38-31 lead into the second half, but the Voyageurs started the third quarter with a 10-2 run, forcing the Gaels to play catch-up.

The teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 48 apiece, and played a see-saw battle until Barnes nailed a long, game-winning three-pointer with 3.6 seconds left, giving her 23 points on the night.

Barnes said the final shot was a fairly routine play.

“It was just another basket. It was kind of a broken play, and we didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves,” she said, adding that the Gaels had been pushed around against York and came out more physically in the Laurentian game.

“We’re usually a lot quicker than other teams in the post but we’re tough—we’ve got some girls that can really hit,” she said.

Head coach Dave Wilson said it was important for the team to recover in the Saturday game.

“Everyone recognizes we’re getting better each game, but [the players] come out to win,” he said.

“Even if you’re getting better it’s still frustrating if you don’t win.”

Wilson said the deciding play didn’t unfold exactly as he had planned.

“It was a long three. Would it be the shot I’d want to take? Not necessarily, but on the other hand that’s [Barnes’s] job; she’s the clutch shooter for us,” he said.

Wilson gave Barnes added praise.

“She’s a very smart basketball player, she does a lot of directing on our defence and she’s one of our best defensive communicators,” he said.

“She’s got a great stroke and understanding of the game—and it really helps our young players.”

The women are fourth in the OUA East with a 5-8 record.

They face Ryerson and the University of Toronto on the road this weekend.

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