Thursday, 13 March 2008

#3 Saint Mary's vs. # 6 Western Preview

FRIDAY GAME ONE QUARTER-FINAL at 11:30 AM A pair of teams that have peaked at the right time meet to kick off the 2008 CIS Nationals Final 8 tournament Friday morning at 11:30 AM as the Huskies, making their second consecutive Nationals appearance meet the Mustangs, who are back after a 7 year absence. Both teams won their big games down the stretch as Western came up with a pair of solid road wins, knocking off OUA West regular season champions Windsor Lancers in Windsor and then following up with a 17 point win at Brock to capture the OUA West championship.
Saint Mary's won three consecutive games at last weekend's AUS tournament including the championship game over AUS top-ranked Acadia. But both teams were within one play of getting knocked out as Western got a late call at home to hold off McMaster in a game that easily could have gone the other way while the Huskies watched UPEI Panthers get two chances at the winning basket in the dying seconds of their AUS quarter-final before the buzzer sounded. Still, both teams have the necessary blend of big-game players and experience to make noise at the tournament. A very interesting matchup at the point should develop as exciting Mustangs 6'1" Matt Curtis, a solid offensive player at his best as a chance-taking transition-oriented lead guard who wants to push the tempo, does battle with steady, understated 6'0" Mark Ross, who is a pass-first point guard who takes care of the ball and is the underlying glue of the Huskies attack. Both are experienced (4th and 5th year) lead guards who have been instrumental in getting their teams deep into March, when solid guard play usually results in team success. Both teams have very good perimeter scorers on the wings with Huskies 6'2" Mark McLaughlin, who uses screens effectively and has a very solid mid-range game off the bounce, and Mustangs 6'1" Jason Milliquet, who also is the recipient of many screens but is more of a catch-and-shoot two who also is very good at getting himself freed up in transition. Expect Western's 6'6" lefty Brad Smith to have an interesting battle with 6'5" Aaron Duncan with Smith being in Duncan's league athletically. Duncan, a former City of Toronto Player-of-the-Year, is a streaky perimeter shooter capable of going off but like many greats from the city, loves to get to the rim. Both teams usually start somewhat smaller lineups 1 through 3 so Huskies 6'1" Shane Morrison and Western's 6'3" Alex Brzozowicz are likely to matchup initially. 6'5" Ike Uchegbu has spent his career guarding taller opponents and will have another in 6'9" Colin Laforme. Uchegbu is a very good passer and Laforme will have to come out and guard him but Laforme can also shoot the open 3. Off the bench, Western has 6'5" Andrew Wedemire who can match the athleticism of Saint Mary's wings while the Huskies have a very good alternative in 6'7" Derrick Coleman off the bench up front. Coleman had a very strong AUS tournament last weekend. Bottom Line: Upon closer analysis, these teams match up very well size-wise and style-wise with the real contrast at the point between two very good and experience point guards. Western has a little more depth coming off the bench but relies on their perimeter scoring more than the Huskies. Some believe that it takes a bit of time to become accustomed to shooting in a bigger arena setting, which Saint Mary's had the luxury of playing in last weekend. Expect a guard/wing-oriented game that could be decided by the battle at the point.

The game will be video webcast by Streaming Sports Network with Howard Bloom doing the play-by-play and retired Bishop's coach Eddie Pomykala doing the colour. As well, CHRW Western radio will have the game with Russ Courtney doing the play-by-play and Chris Prospero, long-time CHRU volunteer and Western alumni with sideline reporting from Josh Sweetland. We hope to be doing some periodic live blogging from the game as well.

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