Bumpy road for basketball

Men lose eighth-straight game, but are still in playoff picture

Gaels’ forward Bernard Burgesson tries to block Laurentian’s Paul Kovacs Friday.
Gaels’ forward Bernard Burgesson tries to block Laurentian’s Paul Kovacs Friday.
Supplied photo by John Sabourin/Action Event Photos and Laurentian Athletics

The men’s basketball team’s winless streak stretched to eight games last weekend. The Gaels lost 90-71 to the Laurentian Voyageurs on Friday and 82-69 to the York Lions Saturday. Queen’s record sits at 6-13. The team is tied with York for fifth spot in the OUA East with three games left in the regular season.

The weekend had the Gaels traveling to Sudbury for the game against Laurentian and then to Toronto. Assistant coach Duncan Cowan said fatigue wasn’t a factor because the itinerary provided ample time for rest. He said there are no excuses for the losses.

“I don’t think it’s a case where we can feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “It was probably the worst defensive effort of the year.”

On Friday night, the Gaels traveled to Subury to play Laurentian and got off to a slow start. They were outscored 24-18 in the first quarter and trailed 51-43 at halftime. The Voyageurs kept it up in the second half, outscoring Queen’s 17-15 in the third quarter and 22-13 in the fourth to take an easy victory. But, the 19-point margin of victory means that the Gaels still control the tiebreaker against Laurentian thanks to a 85-65 win over the Voyageurs on Jan. 10, which could prove crucial in determining the final OUA East playoff spot.

Saturday also saw a slow start from Queen’s, as they were outscored 49-38 in the first half. The Gaels recovered with a 15-12 run in the third quarter, but couldn’t close the deficit and were outscored down the stretch.

The weekend wasn’t without positives, though. Fifth-year guard Ryan Hairsine posted a strong individual performance, putting up 43 points over the two games. Cowan said another benefit was the opportunity to test the bench.

“There were a lot of minutes available because of injuries,” he said. “There’s a few young guys that got a chance to play that wouldn’t usually.”

The Gaels’ next two games will be against the top two teams in the division, who are ranked first and third nationally. Cowan said the Gaels beating the 18-1 Carleton Ravens and 17-2 Ottawa Gee Gees isn’t a bet most would make, but the games can still be positive.

“I don’t think anyone is expecting us to win,” he said. “Win or lose, it could prepare us mentally for the playoffs.”

Cowan said if the team is going to be successful on the weekend, they need to get back to the basics.

“We had some fundamental things that were issues,” he said. “We’re trying to make it simple this week.”

The schedule does get easier after this weekend, though. The Gaels finish the season on Jan. 21 against the winless Royal Military College Paladins and they could clinch a playoff spot with a victory in that game. Cowan said he has confidence in the team’s potential for success despite their recent slump.

“We’ve lost a lot of games but there’s still a lot of reasons to keep our heads up,” he said. “If we make it to the playoffs, I think we’re capable of getting through the first round.

Hairsine said that’s what’s keeping their heads up.

“We have it in the back of our minds that playoffs are coming up and at that point it’s a blank slate,” he said. “The season doesn’t necessarily reflect how well you’re going to do in the playoffs.”

Hairsine said the next two games will be about feeling confident afterwards.

“We need a full forty minutes of focus and effort,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just not good enough. We need to be able to walk out with no regrets.”

He said after the season, the playoffs will necessitate a humble approach.

“We can’t go in with the mindset that we’re going to win the OUA finals. We’ve got to set small attainable goals,” he said. “At this point it’s win the first game, don’t even think about the second or third, just get the first one.”

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