MONTREAL — Alexandria Kiss-Rusk registered a “double-double” in her debut with the McGill University women’s basketball team as the Martlets opened their 93rd season with a 68-46 victory over the Manhattan College Jaspers, Thursday, at Love Competition Hall.
The result marked McGill’s third consecutive victory over an American collegiate team but their first over an NCAA Div. 1 program since a 63-55 conquest over the United States Military Academy’s Army Black Knights on Nov. 19, 1995.
“It was a good way to start the season, everyone in the lineup had pretty much the same amount of playing time” said McGill head coach Ryan Thorne who was only able to dress nine players but all saw at least 18 minutes of court time.”There was a lot of opporunity to feel out everyone to see where they can fit in and what they can do well for us. Win or lose, the best thing was that we got everyone some good minutes.”
McGill, which has finished atop the RSEQ conference standings for the past three seasons, jumped into a 12-0 lead and never trailed. They led 20-14 after the opening quarter, 32-22 at the half and 49-33 after three.
Kiss-Rusk, a second-year transfer from Virginia Tech who was redshirted last season, was one of three McGill players to reach double digits on the scoreboard, coming off the bench to score 13 points and pull down a dozen rebounds in only 21 minutes of court time. She shot 6-for-7 from the floor, made her lone attempt from the free-throw line and was credited three blocks, one steal and a pair of assists. A 6-foot-4 centre and daughter of McGill basketball grads Rick Rusk and Annette Kiss, she is the tallest player ever to suit up for the Martlets, matching the height of Julianne Noseworthy who played from 2004 to 2007.
“Alex changes (the opponent’s) shots… so that’s a great thing and it just helps us with our defence so much more,” noted Thorne. “When a player thinks they have an easy shot (against her), she just comes over and blocks the shot, I think she blocked one with the back of her hand tonight. That’s huge, No.1. But she needs to be more aggresive offensively…. Once she becomes more aggressive and wants to be dominant inside, that will open up a lot more room for the shooters and our other posts.”
McGill sophomore Jennifer Silver had a solid debut in her first return to action since suffering a season-ending knee injury during the Quebec conference playoffs. The 5-foot-11 forward from Montreal scored a game-high 14 points, shooting 6-for-12, while pulling down seven rebounds. Teammate Marika Guerin, a freshman point-guard from Sorel, Que., added 11 points in her collegiate debut.
The Martlets, who fielded a lineup with five players at 5-feet-11 or taller, had a decisive 59-29 edge in rebounding and a 5-2 margin in blocked shots.
“That’s gonna to be huge for us this year,” said Thorne said of his lineup which is arguably the tallest in team history. “We’re probably one of the deepest front-courts in the country. I don’t think that we lose a lot when we make subs at the four and five position.(Our opponents will) be constantly dealing with someone who is agressive, athletic and goes to the glass.”
Mariam Sylla, a 6-foot-1 junior who was the Quebec conference player of the year last season, contributed nine points and pulled down 10 under the glass in just 18 minutes of court-time. Rounding out the scoring for McGill was Carolann Cloutier (9 pts), rookie Marie-Love Michel (6 pts, 7 rbs), Dianna Ros (2 pts, 5 rbs, 6 assists), Gabriela Hebert (2 pts, 6 rbs) and Stephanie Blais (2 pts, 5 rbs).
McGill shot 38.4 per cent from the floor (28/73), 22.7 from the three-point arc (5/22) and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the line. Manhattan replied with a dismal 29.7, 18.2 and 44.4, respectively.
The Jaspers had a 23-17 advantage in turnovers, 11 of them on steals.
Manhattan was led by junior Shayna Ericksen of Long Valley, N.J., with a dozen points. The Jaspers, who dropped to 2-1 in their four-game, six-day Canadian tour, will play at UQAM on Friday (7 p.m.). They opened their cross-border excursion with victories over Ottawa (65-58) and Carleton (67-47).
The Martlets (1-0) will now have an eight-week break to focus on team-building and dryland training, which begins Sept. 8. At least two more recruits, who had summer job commitments, are expected to arrive in late August and the coaching staff will hold an open tryout session on Sept. 10 before final cuts are expected to made around the middle of the month.
McGill’s next home competition will be their own Redbird Classic tournament, Oct. 17-19, when they host Lakehead, Regina and Toronto. Before then, they have a pair of road games in the nation’s capital against Ottawa (Oct. 3) and Carleton (Oct. 4).
NOTES: McGill’s last win over any NCAA squad was a 55-50 decision at Saint Michael’s College, a Div. 2 program, on Nov. 9, 2008… Manhattan College was founded in 1853 and began playing women’s basketball in 1978… The nickname “Jaspers” is to honour Brother Jasper of Mary, who served at the College in the late 19th century. He initiated baseball at the institution, which credits him with implementing the seventh-inning stretch to the game.