Men’s basketball opens season with two losses

Two losses by a combined seven points at Bartlett Gym leaves head coach Rob Smart looking for answers

After going undefeated in preseason action, the men’s basketball team lost their first two matchups of the season, dropping a 75-74 decision to the Lakehead University Thunderwolves on Friday and a 56-50 thriller to the McMaster Marauders on Saturday in Bartlett Gym.

The Gaels’ season-opener against Lakehead was evenly matched through the first quarter, as the teams traded leads. Then, in the second quarter, a Thunderwolves run left the Gaels down 45-35 at the end of the first half.

“We didn’t play very hard in the first half,” Gaels head coach Rob Smart said. “We let them get some confidence and they hit some crazy shots.”

The Gaels came out of halftime with a new lease on the game, and staged a major comeback en route to a 58-57 lead going into the fourth quarter.

With seconds left on the clock, the Thunderwolves, trailing 74-72, brought the ball up court and gave it to starter Andrew Hackner, who made an open three-pointer as time expired.

The Gaels protested the clock’s expiration, and had 0.3 seconds added. But forward Mitch Leger, who received the inbound, was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.

The ending put a damper on an impressive game from Leger, who scored 29 points and pulled down 18 rebounds. Third-year guard Dan Bannister added 15 points.

Smart said the loss came down to a lack of inspiration.

“I don’t think they played with a lot of heart,” he said. “Sometimes they look for the coaching staff to give them heart, and that’s bad. I don’t think the heart can come from the coaching staff—it’s got to come from the players.”

On Saturday night, the Gaels stormed to a lead in the first quarter, outscoring McMaster 16-13, but turnovers in a tempestuous second quarter led to a 31-25 deficit going into halftime.

Bannister said the second quarter had its pitfalls.

“We sort of play into other teams hands when we get scrappy,” he said. “We’ve just got to stay calm.” The Gaels’ offence ran dry, he said.

“We get into a better offence when we have a good defence,” he said. “They are a high-powered team and we held our defence pretty well, we just didn’t hit our shots.”

The Gaels tried to stage a comeback in the third quarter, but the Marauders held on to their lead. A half-court buzzer-beater from Bannister closed the gap to 46-43 going into the final quarter, sending the crowd into an eruption of applause.

“We tried to build on the momentum,” Bannister said. “We fought harder and cleaned up the boards, but shots weren’t falling tonight.”

Another Bannister three-pointer from Bannister closed the gap to 51-50, but the Gaels couldn’t pull the game out in the final seconds.

Smart said the team didn’t gain anything from these games.

“I don’t think, when you play eight games [decided by] 10 points, you gain anything by losing,” he said, adding that that Queen’s should get used to playing tight games.

“We expect to find games that are decided by 10 points or less,” he said. “That is what has been happening, and I think that is what is going to happen.  There are a lot of good teams out there.”

The Gaels head to Waterloo next weekend to take on the Waterloo Warriors and Laurier Golden Hawks.

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