TORONTO — Mike L'Africain, Johnny Berhanemeskel, Terry Thomas and the Ottawa Gee-Gees gang can hit a hundred getting off the bus.
To see No. 2 Ottawa, which drummed No. 5 McMaster 101-68 in the late game at the OUA Final Four at Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto on Friday night, in action is to feel validated for paying mind to the Canadian university basketball. Let other rational, reasonable people wonder if the Carleton Ravens' dominance is deleterious for Canadian Interuniversity Sport — and No. 1 Carleton is still the prohibitive fave for both Saturday's OUA Wilson Cup final and next weekend's CIS Final 8, which it will host. The Gee-Gees also embody how the basketball has taken off in Canada. One can glean it from seeing a 3-on-1 fast break building up to a L'Africain-to-Thomas alley-oop or seeing Ottawa shoot 16-of-24 from three-point land like it did on Friday. The McMaster mawling marked the ninth time in its last 16 OUA games Ottawa has broken the century mark since Thomas, a transfer from St. Francis Xavier, became eligible in November.
The kicker, of course, is that Dave Smart's Ravens just take the other teams' favourite toys and break them. In the minds of many who both get and disdain CIS, this all looks like window-dressing if Ottawa cannot beat Carleton at some point. Carleton swept the season series handily, 94-73 on Nov. 29 and 82-58 on Jan. 22.
"The two games that we played them, I didn’t feel we played our best game, a lot of that comes back to Carleton taking us out of what we want to do," Ottawa coach James Derouin, whose team got 26 from Berhanemeskel on 11-of-14 shooting, 19 from L'Africain and 17 from Terry Thomas, including a couple thunderous dunks. "If anything, that’s the message that I’m going to take to our guys."
"Part of Carleton’s dominance is psychological," Derouin added. "They’re already thinking, we lose tomorrow and we’re going to nationals [since at least three OUA teams will go to the CIS Final 8, including host Carleton]. That’s something that as a coach I’m going to have to deal with. I want that Wilson Cup banner. That's a milestone for our program. There’s a lot of things on the line. A No. 1 seed at nationals is key. There’s nothing better than getting a lighter game at the start of the tournament.Read More »from Ottawa Gee-Gees, on facing Carleton Ravens in OUA Wilson Cup: ‘Give them our best game and let’s see what happens’