Thursday, 10 September 2009

McGill Tribune article on Redmen vs. St. John's

It just hit me now... back in the day, this game would have been Redmen vs. Redmen. This article that recently appeared in the McGill Tribune campus newspaper provides a nice look at McGill including comments from Coach Norman.

Redmen blown away by Red Storm: Norman sees promise despite lopsided loss

Youth, inexperience, and potential were the keywords used by Head Coach Craig Norman when he discussed the upcoming season for the Redmen basketball team, and each of these traits was evident in McGill's preseason opener, a 90-55 defeat at the hands of NCAA Division-1 squad St. John's University. Although the Redmen put up a valiant fight in the first quarter, they simply could not match the size, athleticism, and firepower of the visiting Red Storm. McGill forward Michael White, who led all scorers in the contest with 12 points, acknowledged the difficulty in preparing for the team from Queens, New York.

"Teams from the States are definitely bigger [and] more athletic, but it's a good way to gauge where [our] team's at," he said. "[We] know what we have to work on and we know that basically, that [was] the best calibre basketball team we're going to play all year."

While McGill certainly did not lack heart, the disparity in size and toughness was obvious down the stretch. McGill struggled to deal with the Red Storm's full court press, and was overwhelmed on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 39-21. Solid execution and defensive tenacity allowed the Redmen to grab a surprising 20-12 lead after the first quarter, but St. John's turned up the heat in the second period, embarking on an impressive 40-6 run en route to a 52-26 lead at the half.

"Our inexperience showed and we succumbed to their constant pressure," said Norman. "We got away from our system, and against a team like that, if you do not execute, you pay dearly."

McGill appeared to regroup somewhat after halftime, but could not manage to mitigate the second quarter damage. A vicious breakaway slam by 6-foot-8 forward Sean Evans, followed by a fast break alley-oop by the Red Storm backcourt, seemed to take the fight out of the home squad.

Despite the disappointing result, Norman was reluctant to read too much into the game, preferring to focus on what his team needs to do to improve.

"We had five days of practice to get ready for this [game], and that's a big-time team we played. We graduated two guys who combined for 40 points per game, so we knew we were going to have some trouble scoring the basketball," he said. "We'll work on the little things, getting open on the wing, offensive options, [and] shooting. It's very early in the year and I think there are a lot of positives that we can take from this game."

One of the biggest positives that Norman can draw from the loss is the play of his new recruits, particularly freshman point guard Olivier Bouchard, who logged a team-high 29 minutes. Finishing with six points, four rebounds, and seven assists, Bouchard dazzled at times with excellent court vision, a tight handle, and impressive speed.

"I think Bouchard is going to be tremendous at this level. He's the first real point guard we've had in a number of years," said Norman. "[Freshman guard] Winn Clark gave us good minutes on the wing, and [freshman forward] Nic Langley contributed as well. We played a bunch of freshman big minutes [in their] first university game, and it was against St. John's."

Norman will rely heavily on the energy from his young players to complement the court savvy of the Redmen vets, but realizes that many of the team's rookies will face a steep learning curve. Bouchard, while showing immense promise, also finished with a team-high six turnovers, something the freshman will look to improve upon as the regular season draws closer.

"Playing for the first time against university [competition], I had to really control the ball every [possession]," said Bouchard. "Against [a team like] St. John's, they profit from every single turnover, so I think throughout my first year, my biggest goal will be to limit turnovers and control the game."

Controlling every game is what the Redmen will need to do if they wish to succeed in a tough Quebec conference this year. After being unceremoniously dumped out of the first round of the QSSF playoffs by Concorida last season, the Redmen hope that the size, creativity, and hustle of their younger players can help them stay competitive. McGill now turns its attention to the practice courts, and will not play again until they host Laurentian University on October 8, at 8:00 pm.

1 comment:

The Hoops Manifesto said...

I was pretty disappointed when St. John's switched from the Redmen to the Red Storm. I understand the reasoning behind it, but Red Storm is a lame name.