Courtesy of host organizing committee
March 8, 2014, OTTAWA (ISN) – In the first consolation game of the ArcelorMittal Dofasco CIS men’s basketball championship, the seventh-seeded McMaster University Marauders beat the No. 6 Saint Mary’s University Huskies by a score of 98-71 Saturday afternoon at the Canadian Tire Centre.
CHAMPIONSHIP WEBSITE: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mbkb/index
Marauders coach Amos Connolly said even though it was a consolation game, it was important to his team.
“We didn’t want to play the game like we didn’t want to be there – we wanted to play like we didn’t belong there,” he said.
There is no consolation final this year at the tournament – something Connolly finds upsetting.
“Do I think it’s a good idea to have a consolation game without a consolation final? No, I don’t,” he said. “But when you’re in it, you have to find a way to create meaning.”
McMaster, the OUA bronze medallists, opened up a 10-point lead after the first quarter and managed to maintain an 11-point lead through three quarters before pulling away in the fourth and final frame, outscoring the AUS champions 25-9 over the final 10 minutes.
The Marauders were paced on both ends of the court by first-year forward Leon Alexander, who was named his team’s player of the game. He registered a double-double with game-highs of 23 points 10 rebounds in 29 minutes on the floor.
He said his team was motivated by being seeded lower than the Huskies.
“We thought we should definitely be seeded higher than seven, but we took what we got,” he said.
Connolly said his coaching staff used their team’s seeding to push his team at the tournament.
“When you’re dealing with the 20-year-old mind… you use whatever you can to motivate it,” he said.
The Huskies provided plenty of highlight-reel plays for those in attendance, with second-year guard Theon Reefer throwing down two huge alley-oops as part of his team-high 17 points.
But the Marauders were the better shooting team in the contest, shooting 48.4 per cent from the floor and 36.8 per cent from three-point territory. Both of those totals were just over 10 percentage points higher than the Huskies in the same categories.
Another reason McMaster was successful was playing with more discipline – seen in the difference in free throws, with the Marauders going to the charity strike 21 more times than the Huskies on the afternoon.
The Saint Mary’s loss marked the final game of Harry Ezenibe’s five-year CIS career, and the Nigerian native led his team with eight rebounds.
Ezenibe said this game was emotionally difficult for him not only because it was the last time he put on a Huskies uniform – but it marked the two-year anniversary since his sister passed away.
“I just told everyone to have fun because that’s what my sister would’ve wanted me to do,” he said. “To have the last game of my university career, especially on the same day that she passed away, it was a special day for me.”
This season, he was named the Ken Shields Award winner for basketball, academics, and community service among CIS men’s basketball players. Ezenibe said it was an honour to be the recipient of such an award, especially to cap off his Huskies career.
The game featured the two teams who have had the longest droughts in reaching the national championships.
McMaster’s last tournament appearance came in 2006, where they placed fifth. Saint Mary’s had not made it to nationals since 2008, finishing in a tie for seventh.
Huskies coach Jonah Taussig, only in his second season as the Huskies coach, said making it to the Final Eight shows how far his program has come.
“We’re proud to be AUS champions, and there are only four teams in the country that can say they won a championship this year,” he said. “We had a good year and we’re happy about it, but we’re disappointed right now though.”
Connolly took over the McMaster program four years ago, and said he is pleased with the progress he’s witnessed over that span. But he said his team needs to do better in the OUA playoffs to perform better at the tournament in the future.
“It’s indicative we’re on track with a plan, but I’m not happy with not winning yesterday,” he said. “The lesssons learned from this are we don’t want to go into national tournaments ranked sixth or seventh or eighth – we want to go into national tournaments ranked in the top-four if we can.”
MAC: 28-19-26-25: 98
SMU: 18-19-25-9: 71
Points: Leon Alexander (23), Joe Rocca (19), Nathan McCarthy (17)
Rebounds: Leon Alexander (10), Nathan McCarthy (8)
Assists: Nathan McCarthy (3), Adam Presutti (3), Trevon McNeil (3)
Player of the game: Leon Alexander
Points: Theon Reefer (17), Boyd Vassell (16), Riley Halpin (10)
Rebounds: Harry Ezenibe (8)
Assists: Boyd Vassell (7)
Player of the game: Boyd Vassell
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times EASTERN TIME)
Friday, March 7
- 12:30 Quarter-final 1: Alberta 72, Saint Mary’s 62
- 14:30 Quarter-final 2: Carleton 82, McMaster 64
- 17:30 Quarter-final 3: Victoria 63, McGill 54
- 20:00 Quarter-final 4: Ottawa 94, Saskatchewan 73
Saturday, March 8
- 12:30 Consolation 1: McMaster 98, Saint Mary’s 71
- 14:30 Consolation 2: No. 5 McGill vs. No. 8 Saskatchewan ( www.CIS-SIC.tv )
- 18:00 Semifinal 1: No. 3 Alberta vs. No. 2 Carleton ( Sportsnet 360 / www.CIS-SIC.tv *)
- 20:00 Semifinal 2: No. 4 Victoria vs. No. 1 Ottawa ( Sportsnet 360 / www.CIS-SIC.tv *)
Sunday, March 9
10:30 Bronze ( www.CIS-SIC.tv )
14:00 Final ( Sportsnet / www.CIS-SIC.tv *)
* The webcast of all 3 televised games (semifinals & final) will be on pay-per-view basis.