October 27, 2013, KAMLOOPS, B.C. (ISN) – Health has been a major issue for the Heat squad coming into the 2013-14 season. However, things look bright as the team looks to be in shape to be together for the home opener next weekend at home.
“A lot of our guys are injured,” said Heat fifth-year guard Yassine Ghomari (Vancouver, BC), adding that most of the roster should be back to strength come Monday. “We have a lot to do this week to prepare [for the regular season], but it should be good.”
With the home-opener a mere week away, the Heat wrapped up their preseason action at the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops against a pair of teams from south of the border in the Evergreen State College Geoducks from Olympia, WA and the Northwest University Eagles from Estacada, OR.
Friday, October 25, 2013 – Evergreen State University – L, 92-87
Score by Periods 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
Evergreen State 22 25 23 22 92
UBC Okanagan 19 21 28 19 87
The Heat opened their weekend in Kamloops against a very unfamiliar foe in the Evergreen State Geoducks.
“They were two very different games,” Ghomari said of the team’s opponents. “Both teams were completely different. [The Geoducks] were very small. They played a run-and-gun kind of offense … very up-tempo, and they shot the first available shot.
We’re not used to seeing those teams in our league, so it was a bit of a tough matchup.”
The Heat were consistently within striking distance of the Geoducks, rarely more than five points behind. “It took us a bit to adjust,” Ghomari continued, alluding to Evergreen’s style of play. “We ended up losing a close one at the end. We just didn’t make the plays that we needed to at the end unfortunately.”
The Heat’s adjustments would end up working quite well. The run-and-gun style of the Geoducks produced 47 first half points on 17-34 shooting, but the Heat were able to curtail their opponents’ chances in the second half, holding them to only 13-33.
They also denied the three-ball a lot better, effectively halving the Geoduck’s attempts from the arc, as well as their makes.
In particular, the Heat were able to better key in on the Geoducks’ Kyle Calhoun in the second half, though he would still wind up with a game-leading 34 points on 11-24 shooting.
Individually, third-year transfer James Lum (Vancouver, BC) led his team in points with 14. The Heat would score by committee as five players reached double-digit scoring, including Lum.
Fifth-year wing Ed Dane Medi (Rome, IT) recorded a double-double for the Heat with 11 points and 10 rebounds on a perfect 4-4 and 3-3 from the field and free throw line, respectively.
Saturday, October 26, 2013 – Northwest University – L, 68-56
Score by Periods 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
Northwest University 15 22 24 7 68
UBC Okanagan 11 11 19 15 56
Saturday afternoon a banged up Heat squad took to the court against the Oregon team, where they would ultimately fall following an early deficit that they were not able to overcome.
“[Saturday] was a much bigger team,” Ghomari said of the Eagles. “They are more like the CIS style we are going to be seeing this year. We came out a little flat unfortunately. I don’t know if it was we weren’t ready to go, or we were just tired. A lot of guys are injured, so that might be a part of it too because a lot of guys logged a lot of minutes last night.”
A second quarter defensive collapse allowed the Eagles to sprint to a 37-22 lead at halftime. The Eagles’ Michael Russo and Ryan Mcintosh each punished the Heat in the paint during the second quarter. Both players would wind up with 15 and 14 points for the night, respectively.
“We struggled the first three quarters,” admitted Ghomari. “But we had a great fourth quarter—we held them to seven points defensively, which was really good. We made it close in the end, but it was too much to try and catch up on.”
Indeed, the Heat would start the fourth quarter down twenty points at 61-41, and time would be their enemy this time, failing to close in on the Eagles in the 68-56 loss.
Despite being matched up against a bulkier team, the Heat outperformed the Eagles in the paint 30-18. Depth as a weakness for the Heat was evident, however, as the Eagles’ bench handily outscored the Heat’s bench 27-18.
Once again, Lum led the charge for the Heat with 17 points while dishing out 3 assists. Medi was also close to repeating his double-double performance, netting 14 points and grabbing a team-high 9 rebounds. Fifth-year wing Landry Ndayitwayeko (Windsor, ON) rounded out the three scorers in double-digits for the Heat, chipping in 12 points on an efficient 5-9 from the field (2-2 from the line).
The regular season approaches
Heat head coach Pete Guarasci was pleased with his team’s fight, especially in lieu of its injury situation. “We had some good stretches in both games where we played with the required amount of concentration and effort to compete with our opponents. Unfortunately, we did not sustain those stretches for long enough to win a basketball game. We had some young players get extended minutes due to our recent injuries.”
Ghomari himself was injured, and so sat out the exhibition matches over the weekend. “I tore my hip flexor about a month ago,” he said, “but I am pretty much healed so as of Monday I should be back.” He expects that most of the roster will also be ready to go for the upcoming home opener.
He also noted how the injuries have been a “blessing in disguise”, as it has provided an opportunity for some of the younger and/or newer players to get valuable time on the court. “They’ve been building,” Ghomari commented. “A few guys have been stepping up. They’ve had, with all the injuries, a chance to prove themselves. They’re going to be huge for us. Guys go out during the year, things are going to happen, and now that they have the experience of the preseason that will help a lot during the season if those kinds of situations happen again.”
Heat basketball opens their regular season at home next weekend when they host a pair of top Canada West teams in the Alberta Golden Bears and the Saskatchewan Huskies. Guarasci is optimistic that his team will be good to go for next weekend. “We hope to regroup and refocus for our upcoming week of preparation for two very strong CIS basketball teams in U of A and U of S,” he said.
“We play two top teams, and it’s going to be a struggle,” Ghomari admitted. “But I’m excited.”
Tip-off at the UBC Okanagan gymnasium for both games is at 8 p.m.