Friday, 6 January 2012

Friday Afternoon Thoughts

Laval looks for a bit of payback tonight at home against McGill after the Redmen soundly defeated Rouge et Or in November in Montreal behind a 24 point, 6 assist effort from 6'4" sophomore guard Karim Sy-Morissette.  McGill built an early double digit lead and maintained it throughout with a strong defensive performance.  Laval's 6'6" forward Etienne Labrecque, expected to be a difference maker in his fifth and final season, continues to battle back problems which have plagued him intermittently for the past few seasons; his back forced him to miss to championship game of last week's Ryerson National Invitational tournament which Rouge et Or lost to the hosts.  Labrecque's status for tonight's game is unknown however Rouge et Or will have ex-York Lion 6'5" Rene-Pier Mathieu in the lineup tonight, providing Coach Jacques Paiement Jr. with a strong, top-of-the-rotation player who can be a tough matchup.  6'8" freshman Boris Hadzimuratovic (14.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 58.5% fg in 29.5 mpg)  has authored CIS Rookie-of-the-Year type numbers thus far this season and is improving daily as a legitimate, double-team-creating low post presence.  Big Boris, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds against McGill in November, struggles from the free throw line however (8 for 22, 36%) so expect a steady diet of the Q league version of "Hack-a-Shaq" if Boris gets it going inside... After a embarrassing defeat to cross-town rival Laurier on Wednesday, it is back to the drawing board for the Waterloo Warriors however one bright line for Coach Tom Kieswetter is the play of 5'11" Mike Wright, a second year point guard from Burlington Assumption who single handidly kept the Warriors going, scoring 20 first-half points.  Wright has already developed in a sound OUA point guard with his high basketball IQ and floor vision.  Very good at sharing the ball and finding the proper pass, Wright clearly can also score when he needs to.  Unfortunately for the Warriors and Wright, starting 6'7" center Brendan Smith will no longer be available this season as he has taken a co-op position in B.C. as part of his academics... UNB Varsity Reds play the first of two games in Antigonish against the #2 St. Francis Xavier X-Men this evening with Reds Head Coach Brent Baker returning to his alma mater and where he coached the women's program.  X head boss Steve Konchalski, who this weekend looks for win number 800 of his illustrious career, has kept X at the top of the rankings despite heavy graduation losses and key reasons include 6'5" Terry Thomas, the Shoveller MVP who continues to fill out physically and has added power to the frequent raw-athleticism highlight reels produced in his freshman season.  Maybe more importantly for X is the energy that 6'0" Will Donkoh has brought, especially as part of the press that for so many seasons has been the catalyst in turning games around and propelling X-Men to victories.  The scrappy V-Reds are undersized but can shoot the ball when they get going and they also play very hard for coach Baker.  6'2" Dan Quirion is their main perimeter scorer who's skills were on display at the Classique des Citadins last week in Montreal, specifically during Reds triple overtime loss to McGill when UNB several times came back from seemingly-insurmountable deficits to extend the game to 3 extra periods.  X, which remains undefeated in AUS play, and UNB (2-4 in AUS with both victories at home by 2 over Memorial) have not met this season... Best game of the night in the OUA East has uOttawa at Laurentian in Sudbury where the Vees usually are very tough and need a win at home to push toward the Top 4 in this division.  With Ryerson coming off a comfortable win in the championship of the RNIT and getting healthier after a rough first half, most observers envision a three-way battle for second place among the Gee-Gees, Rams and U of T Varsity Blues.  Laurentian has other ideas and a win tonight at home vs. Ottawa would reinforce that a goal of a home playoff game or, more ambitiously, a first-round playoff bye is more than reasonable.  While Ottawa goes at least 8 deep, expect Laurentian coach Shawn Swords to play his first five for major minutes, especially now that sharpshooting 6'0" third-year guard Manny Pasquale is back in the lineup after missing the final 6 games of the first half with a broken tail bone.  Manny had a pair of 29 point games on the road at Windsor and at Western on the opening weekend of the season before getting hurt and expect him to check Gee-Gees freshman point guard Mike L'Africain.  Brother Isiah Pasquale averages almost 17 ppg while emerging 6'2" Alex Ratte also gets over 30 minutes per game while averaging 17 ppg/5.4 rpg.  6'7" Mike Hull provides size and grit up front for Laurentian.  Hull will have his hands full with a rapidly-improving Gee-Gees front court increasingly led by 6'7" Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue, who continues to grow as an offensive go-to guy as he adds finesse to his great athleticism.   Laurentian will also need to find a matchup for 6'10" Shamus Ferguson - expect the Vees to try to play as fast as possible and feed off the usual energy the crowd at Ben Avery Gym generates.  Game is available on SSN Canada.

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