Thursday, 13 March 2008

Andy Watson's Western vs. Saint Mary's game preview

CIS MEN’S BASKETBALL NATIONALS QUARTER-FINAL: Western-Saint Mary's Preview Mustangs hope to play high-tempo game and score inside while winning rebounding battle against a Saint Mary's team hot off three straight wins in the AUS Tournament

No. 3 Saint Mary’s Huskies vs. No. 6 Western Mustangs; Friday March 14, 11:30 a.m., Scotiabank Place

OTTAWA, Ont. - It's less than 24 hours before the Western Mustangs' return to the national basketball championship tournament, the Final 8 hosted by Carleton University. With over 70,000 tickets already sold for the three-day event, the Mustangs took the floor at the Scotiabank Place for practice on Thursday March 13 and looked to be clicking on all cylinders. The game against the Saint Mary's Huskies should be a great opener for the tournament, with Western known for a fast, up-tempo style with great perimeter shooting and Saint Mary's relying primarily on their starters to get things done with the ability to shoot a high percentage.

The game can be heard live on CHRW Radio (94.9 FM in London,, viewed live online with a video webcast through a link at or via Western's live blog at

The Huskies worked hard in their 55-minutes session to get players open off ball screens in the low post and then open up a player cutting through for a quick feed and shot from top of the free-throw line. The Mustangs followed the Huskies in practice, as Western worked on high-tempo offence in their game. If the practice is any indication, Western will look to run the floor with the Huskies, and tire out the squad.

Bradley Campbell, head coach of the Mustangs, said Western will need to score inside and out rebound the Huskies to be successful. "We'll need to get baskets in transition," Campbell added. "We'd like to run and score off the fast break. They don't go very deep so hopefully we can play a high-tempo game and utilize our depth."

Ross Quackenbush, in his 19th year as the Huskies bench-boss, said he thinks it will be an entertaining game when the teams tip-off at 11:30 a.m. on Friday March 14. Quackenbush said he is not worried about his depth. "It's the playoffs and that brings out the best in our team in terms of intensity," he said. "The idea of us being on a big run late in the season is a bit misleading. We're 28-9 overall this season."

The Huskies seem like a confident group and Quackenbush said despite their youth that he feels his team can compete on the national stage. Saint Mary's defeated several other tournament teams en route to qualifying, including their only match up against Western, coming from behind after being down 17 points in a pre-season game in October to win by one point 71-70. The Huskies beat Acadia three times, including the 75-72 Atlantic University Sport championship on March 9 at the Halifax Metro Centre, and they also defeated Laval in their only meeting this season.

"We come from a competitive division," he said. "I don't know what we I would say our strengths are but we do what we need to get the job done."

At the AUS championship, the Huskies got a taste for the consistency that will be needed to win at nationals, a tournament set up without a lot of rest. They play three games in a short period of time (Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon) in a model similar to that of the national tourney. The winner of the Western-Saint Mary's game will have more rest than any other team leading into Saturday night's semi-final contest at 6 p.m. against either Brock or UBC.

"It's an advantage for the team winning our quarter-final game against Western as we'll have some needed rest," Quackenbush said. "We have a lot of freshman on our team and we have a lot of physical strength. But we don't really done one thing specifically well. We're a scrappy team and we shoot well with a high shooting percentage." He said they've averaged 83 points a game and are known to rely on their starters to get the job done. "They've been getting the job done all year, and it's not that our freshman can't step in and play it's just that we've had our (veteran) players do it all year," Quackenbush added.

Campbell knows his squad will need to be focused, and try to block out the hype surrounding the tournament. "We're very happy to be here, it's why you play the season, to have the chance to go to nationals," he said. "There are players sitting at home who are dying to be here right now. We just need to focus on the task at hand and win three games to win the national championship."

3. Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS champions / 14-6 regular season, 3-0 playoffs)

Regular Season Record: 14-6
Playoff Record: 3-0
Overall Record: 28-9
Playoff Finish: AUS Champions following 75-72 win over Acadia on March 9
Head Coach: Ross Quackenbush
Conference 1st team all-stars: Mark McLaughlin
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Shane Morrison
CIS championship appearances (first champ: 1962-63): 22nd
CIS championship last appearance: 2007 (semi-finalists)
CIS championship sequence: 2nd straight appearance, 7th in 10 years
CIS championship best result: 4-time CIS champions (1998-99, 1978-79, 1977-78, 1972-73)

The Skinny: Call them the March Magicians, perhaps, as the Saint Mary's University Huskies peaked with second straight late-season run to qualify for nationals. Guards Mark McLaughlin (6'3"), a shooting guard and wing player who was recently renamed the AUS tournament MVP, and point guard Mark Ross (6'0") lead the Huskies. They will log 30+ minutes for Saint Mary's, a team the lacks depth. Western matches well in size with the Huskies, with their three key forwards being Aaron Duncan (6'5"), Shane Morrison (6'1") and Ike Uchegbu (6'5"). Ross Quackenbush, in his 19th season as head coach, has been called simple but effective.

Here is the Saint Mary's roster. They only have one fifth-year player, guard Mark Ross, four freshmen, five sophmores and four juniors.

# Name Pos Study Hometown

5 Peter Gilfoy F 2nd year Comm Dartmouth, NS
11 Jack Gallinaugh G 1st year Comm Halifax, NS
14 Jazzmen Cain G 1st year Arts North Preston, NS
15 Mark McLaughlin G 3rd year Comm Dartmouth, NS
21 Mike Poole F 2nd year Comm Halifax, NS
31 Mark Ross G 5th year Comm Cole Harbour, NS
32 Shane Morrison G 2nd year Arts Toronto, ON
42 Aaron Duncan G/F 3rd year Arts Toronto, ON
44 Ikeobi Uchegbu F 3rd year Comm Ideani, Nigeria
45 Luke Reynolds F 1st year Comm Bedford, NS
52 Derrick Coleman F 3rd year Comm Detroit, MI
53 Zach Wallace G 2nd year Sci Mississauga, ON
55 Iain Robertson F 1st year Arts Halifax, NS

Head to Head at Nationals:

Western has played Saint Mary's three times previously at the national tournament. In the most recent meeting in 1998-1999, Saint Mary's defeated Western 66-62 in the quarter-final. In 1986-87, Western edged the Huskies 73-72 in the consolation final. And way back in 1967-68, Saint Mary's gutted out a 78-74 win over Western in the national semi-final. The Huskies has an all-time seven-point edge on Western at the national tournament.

Recent Meetings
October 19, 2007 Saint Mary's 71 Western 70 (UNB Preseason Tournament)
Nov. 1, 2002 Western 81 Saint Mary's 77 (exhibition)

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