Saturday, 16 February 2008

Friday Recap

In what was probably the greatest single-game shooting performance of this season, 6'3" J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux stuck 10 of his 13 3's and finished with 41 points to lead Laval over Concordia on the road in Montreal. Laval is the hottest team in Canada this side of Carleton, losing only once after Christmas, in their first game back from the break to York Lions by two points 70-68 at the Ryerson tournament in a game in which Beaulieu-Mahieux went 1-14 from the floor including 0 for 11 from the three. Since then, Laval has won 11 games in a row to clinch the QSSF regular season pennant and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Beaulieu-Mahieux is returning to the form that garnered him CIS Freshman-of-the-Year honours but the underlying key to le Rouge et Or still is 6'7" J.P. Morin, as tough a matchup as their is in the country with his ability to face up and score on the blocks. Against Concordia last night, Laval went with their starting five for most of the game with Beaulieu-Mahieux, Morin, 5'9" point guard Xavier Baribeau and 6'4" Jerome Turcotte each playing virtually the entire game. Currently 6'4" F.O. Gagnon-Hebert and 6'8" Marc-Andre Cote are sharing time at the five. Beyond that, Laval has talent but in big games, it is the top six that appears to get most of the run. Given that each team plays 4 games against their divisional foes, the "Q" playoffs are single-game, sudden-death affairs beginning with the semi-finals in two weeks. The winner of the QSSF championship game will represent Quebec at the CIS Nationals. Laval faces Bishop's tonight and then finishes the season at UQAM next weekend, in what could be a preview of one "Q" semi-final playoff game.

UBC Thunderbirds had a tremendous turnaround in Game One of their Pacific Division semi-final, bouncing back from a lacklustre early shooting effort to outscore a well-prepared and difficult UCFV Cascades team 38-8 over the final 14 minutes of play to take the series lead. The Birds did a great job on UCFV's top two scorers 6'2" Doug Plumb and 6'8" Joel Haveland, who combined to shoot just 3 for 16 from the floor but the Cascades bench was up to the task as UCFV controlled the tempo, ran their sets, converted defensively to limit UBC transition opportunities and basically were in charge leading 55-44. However, the T-Birds were ignited in part by a decision by UCFV to go to a zone and 6'0" Alex Murphy came off the bench to drill a pair of threes which energized the T-Birds and their defense took over from there, holding the Cascades scoreless for almost 13 minutes of play. As UBC gained confidence offensively, Cascades pair of burly posts 6'9" Kyle Graves and Haveland got into foul trouble (both would eventually foul out) and the T-Birds completely turned the game around. 6'3" Chris Dyck valiantly fought through a terrible case of the flu which kept him out of practice all week, scoring 20 points including many that kept UBC within striking distance before the T-Birds went on their game-deciding run.

The Alberta Golden Bears got a big lift from a somewhat-forgotten offensive source last night as 6'1" point guard C.G. Morrison, who last season was the Bears second leading scorer and arguably their top 3 point shooter but has struggled with injuries this season, knocked down 3 3's including a pair from beyond the arc during the game-deciding run early in the fourth quarter to give the Bears the first game against Saskatchewan in another classic between the two teams. According to Bears Head Coach Don Horwood, after missing two months Morrison has "started to look for his offense more recently, especially in practice but last night was the first time in a while in a game that he shot the ball with confidence like last season". 6'4" Andrew Parker had his biggest game in weeks with 17 points including 3 3's and Horwood was proud that Parker "let his offense come to him; when he focuses of defending and rebounding, his offense comes much more naturally. When he's involved on the glass, it translates into better decisions offensively." Horwood was also very complementary of the play of 6'3" post Justin Vanloo who has been tremendous defending and sealing off the paint defensively: "he's doing things that don't show up on the scoresheet like keeping offensive rebounds alive, taking charges and grabbing loose balls; he's been very good turning around situations that didn't initially go his way and that's a real credit to him. It has helped us tremendously." Last night's game drew only about 800 fans as reading week has started at the U of A (capacity is about 2,500 fans). Game two goes tonight in Edmonton and Alberta hopes to keep 6'7" Andrew Spagrud in check (36 points, 10 rebounds last night). "They do such a good job of adjusting to who we put on Spags that it is difficult to find the right matchup for him. Last night with 6'10" Richard Bates guarding him, he went out and hit 2 threes! If we put someone quicker on him, he just shoots over him inside. We only hope we can keep close enough and make him work hard that he may be tired at the end." offered Horwood.

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