Gaels not singing Blues

Queen’s pulls off win against the University of Toronto following a loss to the Ryerson Rams last weekend.

In a turbulent season filled with more downs than ups, a victory over the second place Toronto Varsity Blues came out of the blue for the men’s basketball team last weekend. The Gaels had just lost to the sixth place Ryerson Rams 89-50 on Friday night, extending their losing streak to five games. Touting a 2-14 record entering Saturday, all the shots fell their way and the Gaels came out with an impressive 80-66 upset victory over the Blues.

A road trip to Toronto started off with one of the Gaels’ worst games of the season against Ryerson. With playoff implications on the line Queen’s knew they needed the points from the sixth place Ryerson. As expected, the game started off hotly contested: the score after the first half read 41-36 in favour of the Rams, as the Gaels battled to keep the game close.

The five point margin ballooned to a 12 point margin in the third as the Gaels couldn’t keep up with Ryerson’s play. In the fourth quarter, the team imploded allowing Ryerson to score 33 points while only pocketing six of their own. Overall the team was outscored 48-14 in the second half of the game.

Head coach Duncan Cowan said the problems stemmed from Ryerson’s quick style of play.

“We struggle with speed and athleticism,” he said. “The chaos that speed creates is something that we don’t deal with well.”

Moreover, Cowan said the team’s offensive struggles didn’t do much to help the situation.

“When you’re shooting badly the other team is getting more chances,” he said. “Shooting a good percentage helps control the tempo of fast teams.”

The Gaels enjoyed a complete role-reversal the next day against Toronto. The game opened up with competitive and scrappy play; the Gaels took a 17-13 lead in the first quarter going head to head with the Blues. The second quarter was more of the same theme as Toronto outscored the Gaels 14-12, bringing the halftime score to 29-27 with the Gaels holding a slim two-point lead. With an utter collapse in the second half the night before, the Gaels wouldn’t let it happen again. The flood gates opened in the third quarter as Queen’s filled the basket with shots. The team scored 34 points to take a big 63-45 lead. Up by 18, the team just needed to hold firm in the fourth to take the final score of 80-66.

The win came on the back of an excellent overall team performance. Guards Dan Bannister and Chris Barrett and forwards Matthew Baker and Nikola Misljencevic all scored double digit points as the team finished with a combined 50 per cent shooting percentage.

Cowan said a large part of the success was hitting shots early.

“Once you start hitting shots you get that confidence, it sort of passes through the team,” he said. “Players coming in hit their first shots.”

He also said that the team exhibited greater offensive control.

“We were more patient with what we wanted to do [than against Ryerson],” Cowan said. “We ran our systems more effectively and getting off quick shots when we were open.” Bannister led the way with a 52.9 shooting percentage and 25 points to his name in addition to seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. The fourth-year guard holds the second most points in the OUA and has been vital to the team all season.

Cowan said that Bannister has been important, even outside of the offence.

“The intangibles have been very important,” he said. “He has become more of a vocal leader than he has ever been and in the last month he has become our best defender as well.” In order for the 3-14 Gaels to make the playoffs they will need to leap-frog Ryerson, Ottawa or Laurentian in the standings. Both Ryerson and Ottawa are currently 6-8 while Laurentian is 6-9. With seven games remaining in the season, time has caught up to the struggling Gaels and in order to see post-season action, a high winning percentage is needed to close out the season. Bannister said to do this, the team needs to remain focused.

“We know we are in a struggle to make the playoffs,” he said. “We are trying to take it one game at a time. We’ll see where we are in a few weeks.”

Not all the odds are stacked up against them; the team’s final five games are at home and they will get one more shot at Ryerson, Ottawa and Laurentian before the end of the season. There’s no question that the team is in a hole, but the only way to get out is to start climbing.

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