AUS St. FX bounced back in grand fashion after some across the country were questioning why they belonged in the Top 10, hammering Acadia by 49 points and showing off what the group is capable of when they are focused defensively. Both teams were missing key pieces as X played without 6'5" Jeremy Dunn and Acadia missed 6'6" Justin Boutilier. Dunn is one of the top forward/wings in the AUS, however the Axemen's lack of depth makes that trade much more impactful to them. Especially given that X welcomed back 6'3" Dwayne Johnson. X also played without 6'5" Chad Warren, still out with an injury. Acadia, which remains 6 points back of UPEI and Saint Mary's for the 6th and final playoff spot, still has 5 games remaining, beginning Wednesday at Dalhousie and finishes their season at home with a pair of four-point games against last-place Memorial Sea-hawks. UPEI has two games remaining, against X and Cape Breton, and almost came back at UNB on Saturday afternoon after trailing by 20+ to cut it to 6 but could not get over the hump and has the biggest risk relative to missing the playoffs. If the Panthers cannot win at Cape Breton or at X in two weeks time and even if the Huskies lose all 3 of their remaining games, both teams would be tied with 18 points but Saint Mary's would take the tiebreaker. Recall the teams split their season series 1-1 with Huskies winning 97-85 in overtime when 6'1" Joey Haywood scored 46 points before the Panthers took the second game but only by 4 at 88-84. It sure does appear that, short of UPEI winning in two very two venues (CBU and X), the final playoff spot will come down to the Acadia and Memorial pair of four point games in Wolfville on the final weekend of the season.
OUA Congratulations to Scott Morrison and the Lakehead Thunderwolves for their first-ever OUA West regular season pennant. It was only a couple of short seasons ago when Lakehead languished in the basement of the conference and Morrison was quietly rebuilding the foundation of the Wolves now poised to make their second consecutive Nationals appearance after qualifying last season with a come-from-behind win at Ottawa in the OUA third place game. Lakehead features several athletic guards giving Morrison the flexibility to pressure defensively, especially on the ball and with 6'2" Jamie Searle, the Wolves feature one of the best pure shooters in the nation. Inside, Lakehead has a go-to scorer in 6'6" Yoosrie Salhia supported by a pair of rugged bigs. 6'5" Ryan Thomson is a difficult matchup because of his ability to knock shots down on the perimeter. 6'3" Venzal Russell provides another tremendous offensive element with the ability to score in transition and get to the rim. Lakehead has a deep, focused group which normally locks teams down in the fourth quarter. With two games at Western this weekend, Lakehead has a chance to heal, stay healthy and host an OUA West semi-final playoff game at the ThunderDome... Consider the Windsor Lancers mid-season slump officially over after a resounding victory at Laurier on Saturday night that clinched second place in the West. The Lancers are defending and making shots with 6'3" Isaac Kuon back to his POY-candidate self... Fantastic game on Saturday afternoon at Guelph as Mac Marauders clinched fourth place with sites still set on 3rd and Laurier. The second half produced some of the top play seen anywhere this season with both teams defending well but guys making shots and big offensive plays all over the floor. In the end, the Marauders were able to clamp down defensively in the final 3-4 minutes, creating a big turnover up 2 and then extending to a 7 point lead to win. 6'3" Victor Raso provided tremendous leadership in the back court for Mac, making solid decisions and knocking down 5 3's, four after halftime. 6'2" Kenan Etale was the best athlete on the floor, driving by guys to the rim and keeping balls alive on the offensive glass with putbacks and tips. Both teams are a bit thin with quality size in the post currently, making yesterday's game guard-oriented. Guelph's 6'4" Jonathan Moscatelli showed observers the pre-multiple knee injury version, knocking down shots with his smooth, confident stroke while 5'11" Mike Petrella continues with his breakout season, dropping 14 assists on the Marauders. Guelph must win at Brock on Wednesday and to gain the tie-breaker needs a spread of 11 points or more... Just when some thought that the Carleton Ravens may be a tiny bit vulnerable going into downtown Toronto for a pair of games against two very good opponents, the Ravens simply show how much better they are than any of their OUA East opponents. Varsity Blues played as solid of a first 23 minutes as possible, leading by 5 by making shots, defending and rebouding but then Carleton made 13 of 15 three pointers in the second half alone, led by 6'3" Elliott Thompson's 27 second-half points. Thompson had been having just an ordinary season by his standards but exploded by going 7 for 8 from beyond the arc in the second half alone. On Saturday at Ryerson, Carleton systematically took the host Rams apart with their normal excellent decision making and tough 1/2 court "d". The most impressive aspect of the Ravens game is their collective mental toughness as they simply do not carry anything forward from possession to possession, regardless of what potential momentum shifting may have taken place e.g. opponents 3 or other. Each possession is it's own little game that, once done, is left behind for another opportunity. Thompson's tremendous shooting effort notwithstanding, the Ravens are led offensively by 6'6" sophomore Tyson Hinz and 6'3" freshman Phil Scrubb, the foundation of their program for the next few seasons. 6'0" Willy Manigat provides some veteran leadership and the quickness and athleticism to allow Coach Dave Smart to install some half court trapping, another new look. 6'5" Cole Hobin remains the top overall defender maybe in the country. One element that may make this group a bit vulnerable, if anything, is a lack of quality size up front - a big, athletic post scorer who can pass could be challenging - however expect Carleton to run through the OUA given how well they are playing... Queen's Gaels finished strong this weekend with a pair of wins in which according to their web site they broke a school record (two games in a season with 100+ points). In Saturday's exciting 101-92 win over Laurentian, 6'5" Nikola Misljencevic had a career-high 29 points, offsetting a game-tying 3 by Manny Pasquale that sent the game into overtime. With the loss, Laurentian, losers of 9 of their last 10 with the only win being over winless RMC, officially will finish sixth in the OUA East and face third-place uOttawa Gee-Gees in the Nation's Capital in the first round of the OUA East playoffs. Ryerson and York meet in the other playoff game. Ryerson travels to Toronto next Friday night and York hosts Laurentian also next Friday as the OUA East regular season draws to a close next weekend. The York / Ryerson playoff game will take place at Kerr Hall in downtown Toronto as the Rams own the tiebreaker with the Lions. The teams split their season games - each winning by 1 - however Ryerson takes the tiebreaker with a stronger record in OUA East-only games (Ryerson currently 8-5 vs. York currently 6-7).