Saturday, 19 December 2009

AUS First-Half Summary

After last season's mediocre performance at the CIS Nationals in which both AUS teams suffered first round blow-out losses (X to eventual national champions Carleton & Dalhousie to championship finalist UBC), the conference has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence this season with two teams - X and Cape Breton - in the Top 5. For the first time in almost three decades, there will not be a major CIS championship tournament held in the city of Halifax as the fine folks of Cape Breton will host the AUS tournament in Sydney at Centre 200, which has capacity for 5,000 for hockey and up to 6,500 for concerts - basketball capacity has not yet been announced. However, next season Nationals return to Halifax Metro Center, promising to be bigger and better than ever.

After battling through a series of injuries early in the season culminating in a less-than-successful trip into Ontario in October, St. FX X-Men (5-0, 11-2 vs. CIS) have been on a roll, winning six in a row, while averaging over 90 ppg. Many of the headlines properly laud X's high-powered array of three-point shooters, led by 5'10" Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw and 6'0" Charlie Spurr, who lead the AUS with 18 3's made apiece and both shoot just under 50% from beyond the arc. However, somewhat lost in the discussion is the X-Men's "d", usually predicated on alternating variations of full-court pressure and traps to create turnovers. St. FX has given up only 71 points per game and allowed teams to shoot only 40% in AUS play. In Upshaw (AUS leading scorer at 23.4 ppg), X has an AUS POY candidate, who has played his best in the biggest games (30 points on 8-12 shooting from downtown at Dal when both teams were undefeated and in the Top 10; 27 points against Acadia, helping to hand the Axemen their first AUS loss and 26 in the rematch against Dal - another X victory). Spurr's season high is 24 points (on 8 of 10 shooting from beyond the arc) in X's home win against the Tigers. X has forced opponents to turn it over almost 20 times per game and the catalyst has been scrappy 5'9" Will Silver, who plays with no fear and has become a stat-sheet stuffer: 10.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 6.2 assists per game plus almost 4 steals per game, highlighted by his near-quadruple double effort in a battle of unbeatens against Acadia: 12 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds and 8 steals as against only 4 turnovers. Injuries remain a factor as 6'6" Terrence Taylor has played in only 2 games all season and is sidelined with a knee injury which was examined earlier this week. 6'4" Dwayne Johnson also is likely done for this season, although he will have one more season of eligibility should he not suit up. X's best freshman has been 6'3" Jordan Clarke, averaging just over 7 ppg and is a rotation mainstay on the wing... Scoring has also not been an issue for Cape Breton Capers (4-1, 9-2 vs. CIS) as Coach Jim Charters deep, athletic roster leads the AUS at 94.2 ppg with 5 players averaging in double digits, led by 6'1" third-year guard Tremaine Fraser (16.8 ppg). Eleven players are averaging at least 10 minutes per game as Charters is able to shuffle fresh bodies in and out of the lineup, allowing Capers to play at a high pace usually without losing a step regardless of who is on the floor - defensively, CBU has forced opponents into over 20 turnovers per game, resulting in numerous run-outs (CBU shoots 45% from the field despite a 37% effort from beyond the arc). 6'2" U.S. import Jimmy Dorsey has quickly established himself as a legitimate AUS all-star candidate with 16.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.0 apg and 2.0 steals per game. Probably Cape Breton's top player is 6'3" Paris Carter who, after missing much of the pre-season with a hand injury, return to play in the final 3 games of the first half - all wins - highlighted by an 18 point effort including 4-6 3's in a Caper win at home against Dal. Although the Capers have defended the "3" very well all season, in their only loss against SMU at home, the Huskies shot at a 5-7 clip from downtown in the second half of their come-from-behind victory. This roster is one of the deepest and most talented in Canada and CBU should be a favorite for the AUS crown... After a promising start highlighted by a successful trip to Ontario, a strong performance at Laval tournament and an early-season Top 5 ranking, the Dalhousie Tigers (3-3, 10-4 vs. CIS) limped into the holiday break, losers of three in a row - all double digit setbacks. Last season's Tigers rode a very active and strong quarter-court defensive effort to the AUS championship and in the first two games of the season, Dal kept opponents in the 60's. However, the final 4 games were very un-Dal-like defensively, as the Tigers gave up more than 80 points in each of those games and teams are shooting 45% against the Tigers overall. 6'2" Simon Farine has again shouldered the majority of the decision-making, logging significant floor time (averaging over 36 mpg). Although he is still among the league-leaders in scoring (20.2 ppg), Farine has not shot the ball as well as in the past (16% from 3 point land; only 3 threes made the entire first half and shooting only 41% overall). Still, Farine's ability to take care of the ball (only 8 turnovers in 6 games) combined with 32 assists (more than 5 per game) indicate he is playing at an All-Canadian level, his shooting notwithstanding. 6'9" Joe Schow has been a presence inside offensively averaging over 12 ppg plus 7.5 rpg however fellow forward 6'7" Sandy Viet, while scoring more and working the glass, still can be plagued by foul trouble. The Tigers are clearly a better team with 6'3" fifth-year guard Andrew Sullivan on the floor given his experience, leadership and ability to play off Farine however the Tigers need more offense from this potentially-explosive wing (8.5 ppg/only 6 3's made thus far). The most productive of the newcomers has been 6'6" freshman Chris Hunt, a smooth shooting forward shooting 58% (14-24) from beyond the arc in 24 minutes per game. 6'3" Marcus Wong sat out the final two games of the first half due to injury and 6'5" William Yengue also missed time earlier. Dal has a chance to regroup at home at the Shoveller tournament with a view of re-establishing the sometimes-dominant defensive efforts of the past year or so as paramount to returning to the top of the conference... Without much question, the strength of the Saint Mary's Huskies (4-2, 7-8 vs. CIS overall) lies in their veteran backcourt tandem of 6'3" Mark McLaughlin (19.2 ppg) and 6'1" Joey King Handles Haywood (22.7 ppg), who together have accounted for just over 50% of the Huskies scoring thus far. McLaughlin, who had an AUS season-high 34 points in a win at Memorial, has been very efficient with an assist to turnover ratio of 5.3:1 - he has only turned the ball over 8 times all regular season. In addition, the fifth-year AUS POY candidate shoots 48% from three-point land and 82% from the line so the ball can and likely will be in his hands late in tight games. Haywood shoots 59% from the floor and has been described here previously loves to attack the rim and play up tempo, transition-oriented basketball - when he is going well, easy baskets are plentiful. Steady 6'5" Ike Uchegbu, in his fifth and final season, contributes over 7 rebounds per game and about 9 ppg while invariably having to guard bigger posts, which somewhat frequently leads to foul trouble for the sturdy inside Nigerian - he has fouled out of 2 games already this season. One of the bigger issues the Huskies must deal with is their ability to rebound the ball: SMU has been outrebounded in 4 of the 6 games in AUS play thus far including both losses (at CBU, at Memorial). Probably the best of the newcomers has been 6'3" Demitri Harris, a transfer from BCCAA, who logs over 20 mpg and contributes just over 6 ppg. However, Saint Mary's Head Coach Ross Quackenbush has not been shy going deep into his bench as at least 10 players average 10 minutes or more of time. Dal transfer Ryan deWinter missed the final three games of the first half and Mike Poole has picked up time up front as well as Ronald Vanel and Simon Marr as Quackenbush seeks to find the right combination up front to work with Uchegbu. In the end, expect the Huskies to continue to ride their slick guard combination (McLaughlin has played all but 13 minutes of league play with Haywood logging about 35 mpg) along with Uchegbu, who will play as long as fouls are not an issue and whoever else steps up... A pair of tremendous recruiting classes are quickly erasing the memory of last season's finish out of the AUS tournament for the Acadia Axemen (4-2, 7-4 overall vs. CIS), who rode an undefeated league record and seven game winning streak against CIS teams into the final weekend of the first half, with a road trip to X and CBU looming. Despite a pair of decisive, turnover-laden losses that somewhat-exposed the young Acadia backcourt and pushed the Axemen back down the standings and out of Top 10 consideration, it is clear that coach Steve Baur is assembling a wonderful array of talent that should continue to grow and mature together. There is still room to make noise this season however led by 6'6" fifth-year senior Alex Traikov (14.7 ppg/8.5 rpg), probably the toughest and best overall post player in the AUS thus far this season. Traikov shoots 57% from the floor and has grabbed 4 1/2 offensive rebounds per game. Traikov, the author of numerous double/doubles already this season, had 22 points and 16 rebounds in the loss to X but struggled with only 8 points and 3 boards in the loss to Cape Breton. 6'3" sophomore Casey Fox (15.8 ppg) has taken a team-leading 14 shots per game, shooting 41% but only 21% from beyond the arc. Fox found the going tough in the final two games as he averaged only 9 points but 7.5 turnovers in the two road losses at X and CBU. Axemen have also received a lift from veteran Andre Grant (12 ppg; 60% shooting), who adds another element of experience to the young group. 6'9" Owen Klassen continues to improve as Acadia's top freshman this season - he had 16 points including a perfect 4 for 4 shooting effort from beyond the arc at X, earning high praise from the X coaching staff. Another high-potential budding star, 6'3" Anthony Sears (8.0 ppg), could round into the decision-maker of the future for Acadia however he has struggled offensively (30% shooting including only 3-19 16% from downtown) while averaging almost 4 turnovers per game including 5 vs. X and 8 vs. CBU. 6'6" Justin Boutilier bounced back from an early-season injury with a 21 point/6 rebound effort against UNB however struggled against X and did not play vs. Cape Breton. 6'5" Jonathan Kamba and 6'3" Tyler Lutton (transfer from Douglas College) are both firmly in the rotation with Kamba starting 3 games on the wing and Lutton logging minutes as the back up point guard. The Axemen must improve at the free throw line from where they shoot only 57% as a team, another indicator of a younger group maturing mentally.. The much-improved Memorial Seahawks (1-5, 1-7 vs. CIS overall) have been in every game thus far and, with their top five scorers all in their third season or less, are building a foundation of young talent. Recently, 6'4" third-year wing Jason Shepherd (14.2 ppg - Black Rock, N.S.) has emerged as their top scorer, coming on late in the first half of the season by scoring 18 or more points in the MUN's last three games, including a near-triple-double 20 point, 14 rebound, 7 assist effort against Saint Mary's in MUN's lone victory at home, where the Hawks are just 1-3. 6'4" sophomore Robbie Habib, another Nova Scotia native, is MUN's top three-point shooting threat (57%) while 6'2" Ontario native Mike Helsby (11.2 ppg), a freshman, leads the team in minutes played at 33 mpg. Off the bench, 6'7" Ante Samodol (9.2 ppg/6.4 rpg/90% ft), a native of Denmark, has provided a spark up front, especially down the stretch of the first half, highlighted by a 16 point/7 rebound effort (7-14 shooting) in the victory at home against SMU. 6'6" St. John's native Steven Earles, who has started all 6 league games, began the season on fire, going off for 26 and 17 points in consecutive games at home against Acadia however has not scored in double digits since, but gets himself to the foul line (team leading 6.2 free throw attempts per game (shooting 78% from the stripe). If the Seahawks are to push for a playoff spot, they must take care of the ball better (averaging almost 20 turnovers per game), create some turnovers (only 9 turnovers created per game - lowest in the nation) and rebound (opponents grabbing 14 offensive rebounds per game). Another potentially telling stat for a team that has played 4 of 6 games at home is that opponents have committed about 6 fouls per game more than MUN has, highlighted by the 18 to 8 foul count in the SMU home victory... Another very young group looking to build a foundation is UNB Varsity Reds (1-6, 4-9 vs. CIS) which this site lauded as potentially one of the more improved teams in the CIS in the pre-season. Unfortunately, the Reds have not defended or rebounded with any consistency as UNB's defensive stats are among the worst in the CIS (giving up 89.3 ppg, allowing teams to shoot almost 53%, average rebounding margin of almost -8 per game including an average of 12 offensive rebounds allowed per game). 6'3" fifth-year wing Michael Anderson is the Reds player opponents most prepare for and generally regarded as their best. Anderson (14.7 ppg) had 32 in the Reds only win of the regular season against UPEI but has had his minutes limited by foul issues, already fouling out of 3 games this season. Underrated and undersized 6'4" Alex DesRoches has fashioned a very strong first-half, leading the Reds at 15.4 ppg and leading the entire AUS in rebounding at 10.4 rpg. The Reds shoot just 29% from beyond the arc as a team led by 6'0" freshman Daniel Quirion (7-18 for 39%). 6'6" Colton Wilson's minutes have gone down (19 mpg); he averages just over 9 ppg. At the point, the Reds have rode 6'0" second-year Queen's, NY native Antwann Parks (7.0 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg in 29 mpg) to varying degrees of success but expect Parks to keep improving. Highly-touted 6'3" freshman Gamachu Ibrahim, listed at 140 lbs., has had trouble adjusting to the physicality of play in the AUS and has only one basket to his credit in 6 league games. His time has diminished as the season has worn on... UPEI Panthers (1-4, 1-10 vs. CIS overall) is another team that has not defended, giving up an AUS high 91.2 ppg and have turned it over often (20 per game). Panthers have a very promising top four in their rotation led by 6'5" Manock Lual, who has been the Panthers steadiest and best player over the first half (19.2 ppg/10.0 rpg/56% shooting in almost 34 mpg). 6'1" newcomer Terrence Brown (18.4 ppg/51% shooting including 57% (12-21) from downtown) is one of the toughest offensive guards in the AUS, as highlighted by his 28 point effort at home against St. FX, an effort highly praised by the X coaching staff. Unfortunately, Brown's minutes have been limited due to problems with fouls, having been disqualified 3 times already. Another newcomer, 6'5" Fanshawe College transfer Matt Fennell (14.0 ppg/7.2 rpg/second leading 3 point shooter on the club in 29 mpg), has brought his blend of strength, athleticism and perimeter skills to the table while 6'0" fifth-year guard Nick Toews (16.2 ppg but only 24% from downtown in a team-high 34 mpg) looks to become more consistent with his offense and decision making (5.6 turnovers per game). The Panthers average about 23 fouls per game, allowing for too many easy points for opponents at the foul line (opponents have shot 50 more free throws - 10 per game - than UPEI).

StFX 5-0 14 PTS
Acadia 4-2 12
Cape Breton 4-1 12
Saint Mary's 4-2 10
Dalhousie 3-3 8
Memorial 1-5 4
UNB 1-6 2
UPEI 1-4 2

## Player-Team G FG 3FG FT Pts Avg/G
1.Christian Upshaw-STFX.... 5 42 18 15 117 23.4
2.Joey Haywood-SMU......... 6 58 8 12 136 22.7
3.Simon Farine-DAL......... 6 43 3 32 121 20.2
4.Manock Lual-UPEI......... 5 36 1 23 96 19.2
5.Mark McLaughlin-SMU...... 6 41 15 18 115 19.2
6.Terrance Brown-UPEI...... 5 31 12 18 92 18.4
7.Tremaine Fraser-CBU...... 5 33 3 15 84 16.8
Charlie Spurr-STFX....... 5 29 18 8 84 16.8
9.Nick Toews-UPEI.......... 5 29 7 16 81 16.2
10.Jimmy Dorsey-CBU......... 5 27 16 10 80 16.0

## Player-Team G OFF DEF TOT Avg/G
1.Alex DesRoches-UNB....... 7 30 43 73 10.4
2.Manock Lual-UPEI......... 5 16 34 50 10.0
3.Alexander Traikov-ACA.... 6 26 25 51 8.5
4.Phillip Nkrumah-CBU...... 5 10 32 42 8.4
5.Joseph Schow-DAL......... 6 16 29 45 7.5
6.Matt Fennell-UPEI........ 5 6 30 36 7.2
7.Ikeobi Uchegbu-SMU....... 6 20 23 43 7.2
8.Alberto Rodriguez-STFX... 5 16 19 35 7.0
9.Simon Farine-DAL......... 6 9 28 37 6.2
10.Ante Samodol-MUN......... 6 11 25 36 6.0

FIELD GOAL PCT (Min. 3.0 made per game)
## Player-Team G FG FGA Pct
1.scott jaspers-fayer-CBU.. 5 21 33 .636
2.Steve Earles-MUN......... 6 22 35 .629
3.Will Silver-STFX......... 5 19 31 .613
4.Andre Grant-ACA.......... 6 30 50 .600
5.Joey Haywood-SMU......... 6 58 99 .586

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