Men’s basketball close out Bartlett with a pair of wins

Wins over Ryerson and Toronto put regular-season record over .500

Gaels’ guard Baris Ondul drives for Ryerson’s basket during Queen’s 71-65 win at Bartlett Gym on Saturday.
Gaels’ guard Baris Ondul drives for Ryerson’s basket during Queen’s 71-65 win at Bartlett Gym on Saturday.
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Last weekend, the men’s basketball team played their final games in Bartlett Gym, which has housed the Gaels since 1971. They won both of their matchups, 67-62 against the Toronto Varsity Blues on Friday night and 71-65 over the Ryerson Rams on Saturday.

Forward Mitch Leger had an exceptional game against the Varsity Blues, posting a season-high 20 rebounds and 20 points, good for his seventh double-double of the season.

Third-year guard Dan Bannister and fourth-year guard Baris Ondul added 12 points each, while second-year forward Ozren Opacic and fifth-year guard Ryan Hairsine contributed nine points and five rebounds apiece.

“[They are] very guard oriented, which is fun to play against because you really have to chase hard and really give it,” Bannister said. “It was a close game, back and forth, but we hit the shots in the end.”

Head coach Rob Smart said he hopes the Gaels’ performance was a sign of things to come.

“We’ve shown flashes of being able to compete with the best, and it’s more a consistency thing now. We’ve got it started, hopefully we’ll keep it going.”

The Gaels took the early advantage on Saturday against the Rams and never looked back, leading by as much as 11 before finishing the first half with a 29-25 lead and a roaring crowd behind them.

They carried their momentum into the third quarter, holding a 50-37 lead going into the final frame. The Rams began to stage a comeback, clawing away at the Gaels’ lead, but it wasn’t enough.

Hairsine led the Gaels’ scoring with 17, also contributing three rebounds and two steals. Leger notched his second double-double of the weekend with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Bannister dropped 14 points and six boards.

Smart said the game was a learning experience.

“I didn’t think anybody could play zone against us that long,” he said. “One of the problems when a team plays zone is that the game is not nearly as fast, and you also try to keep your shooters on the floor, so we didn’t get to play as many guys tonight as we normally would.”          Bannister said Ryerson’s zone-defense helped the Gaels get a feel for the game.

“They played zone the whole game, and it allowed us to get into a really good rhythm, and we finally hit some shots,” he said. “I didn’t expect them to stay in zone that long, especially when we started hitting shots.”

After the game, the team cut down the nets, a symbolic send-off to Bartlett Gym.

Bannister said the season is starting to shape up for the Gaels.

“It’s good to win two on a weekend,” he said. “We’ve been going 1-1 a lot of weekends, and it’s good to go 2-0 because it shows we have been learning as a team.” Nevertheless, he said the team still has to work on their consistency.  “[We still need to work on] playing 40 minutes solidly. We have droughts, and we just have to eliminate those.

With this weekend’s wins, the Gaels extend their winning streak to four consecutive games.

Smart credited the success to his team’s depth. They have a 6-5 record, tying them with the Blues for third spot in the OUA East, though Toronto have a game in hand.

“Mitch played solidly. Obviously Ryan saved us tonight, he just kept hitting three after three when we needed it. [Opacic] and Chris Barrett are fitting in. Baris and Dan have been consistent for us all year. We played pretty well defensively both nights, and I think that’s how you win games. If you keep the other team down, you got a chance to win every time.”

The Gaels spend the next two weekends on the road, before returning to break in the new facility on Jan. 29 against Laurentian.

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