McGill Escapes Tight one, Edge Laval in Season Opener
QUEBEC CITY – The reigning Quebec champs kicked off their 2013-2014 season in great fashion on Friday night. They came in Laval University and staved off a late game surge from the Rouge et Or to win it 62-59
Both teams showcased impressive defense in the matchup. Neither of them could find their rhythm offensively in the first half, in part because key players were not able to find space on the floor.
The home team did a good job of stopping Vincent Dufort and Simon Bibeau from the get-go, forcing them to go 4 for 14 combined, for a total of 13 points. The thing is, role players stepped up big time for the Redmen. “Francois Bourque was great today (11 rebounds), and Dele [Odundokun] hit a big three to give us a five-point cushion at the end”, McGill coach Dave DeAveiro said. “But I think today, our backup point guard Ave Bross was really good. You know Simon was struggling and wasn’t very good, and Ave came in and did a really good job.”
The Rouge et Or, on the other side, couldn’t benefit from Boris Hadzimuratovic posting up on smaller defenders, as he managed only eight points, all collected at the charity stripe. Part of it is because he didn’t seem to have is usual touch, him being out a couple of weeks due to an injury in the preseason, and part of it is because the Redmen clogged the lane.
Laval answered back with excellent shooting, converting 5 of 10 three-pointers to hold on a 33-32 halftime lead.
The following period was decisive though, as Laval’s indiscipline and lack of offense allowed McGill to pull away with a 51-42 lead. “The third quarter was obviously a problem, but in the second also we picked up a nice lead and we let them come back with some mental mistakes”, Rouge et Or coach Jacques Paiement Jr. said. “We have to play 40 minutes, and at that level we have no choice. If not, we dig holes that are not easy to come back from.”
They almost did it in the fourth. McGill had collected five fouls with 5:30 to go, as Karl Demers-Belanger and Thibaud Dezutter picked up the pace. That, combined with the Redmen turning the ball over eight times in the last frame, led to a thrilling end of the game.
Vincent Dufort got two passes intercepted in the closing minutes, and Laval was able to cut the lead down to two, 59-57. He also missed two free throws that could have sealed the game with 4 seconds to go at 62-59. “Vincent is our best player, but sometimes he tries to do too much. So we’re trying to get Vince to trust his teammates a little bit”, said DeAveiro.
Karl Demers-Belanger missed a contested three on the break following the free throws and that was it.
“We showed our inexperience at times, we have a lot of young kids, and when you play on the road it’s much different than playing at home”, said McGill coach. “We have to get used to it, how we’re going to do things, and then, we got to make free throws when the game matters the most.”
In fact, both teams are pretty young, Laval being the only one with fourth-year players (2) on its roster. They have potential that’s for sure, but it’s not enough for coach Paiement after they missed the playoffs last year. “Progression is good, but at what point we’ll need wins”, said Rouge et Or coach. “Our performance was not so bad tonight, allowing 62 points, but it’s disappointing to miss an occasion like that.”
The Quebec city team will be in action only on November 22nd when they visit Bishop’s.
As for McGill, they will play UQAM next Saturday, the Citadins having beaten Concordia 69-62 in their opener on Thursday night.
NPH TOP PERFORMERS
- Dele Ogundokun: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals
- Francois Bourque: 8 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks
- Thibaud Dezutter: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals
- Karl Demers-Bélanger: 10 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds