MONTREAL — Majid Naji scored 13 points and knocked down a clutch three-pointer with 12 seconds left as the visiting Bishop’s Gaiters rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final minute to escape with a 60-59 a stunning season-opening victory over McGill in men’s basketball at Love Competition Hall, Saturday.
The Redmen, who held the lead for almost the entire game, simply collapsed with a 59-52 advantage in the final 32 seconds, combining a plethora of turnovers and the inability to knock down vital free throws down the stretch.
McGill held a 59-55 lead with 22 seconds remaining and freshman Noah Daoust had a chance to put the game out of reach but missed both his freebies, which opened the door for Gaiters guard Kurtis Caro, who nailed a jumper on a fast break with 18 seconds left, narrowing the gap to 59-57, This set the table for the winning trey by Naji, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound centre from France.
McGill did have time to respond but shots from team captain Vincent Dufort and Daoust failed to fall in the final 10 seconds.
Dufort, the reigning conference player of the year, led McGill with 13 points, eight rebounds, a pair of steals and one block. Daoust, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound centre, was the only other Redmen player in double figure with 11 points. He also added six rebounds, three assists and a steal.
McGill committed 23 miscues on the night, compared to Bishop’s which turned over the ball 15 times.
“We didn’t know how to play the game when we were winning.” said McGill head coach David DeAveiro, in his 14th year as a head coach at the CIS level. “That’s on me and is my responsibly to make sure our guys know how to play in these situations. You coach for 20 years, you’re going to have a few games where you win like that and lose like that. This was one of those games and the only thing we can do is get better from this.”
McGill led 13-12 after the first quarter and managed to push that lead to seven 28-21 at halftime. After the break, Bishop’s began slowly cutting into the lead and found themselves down just 37-36 heading into the final frame.
“We don’t have (graduated seniors) like Simon Bibeau and… Nathan Joyal to come in and take control of a game like that… We are playing young guys at crucial moments,” noted DeAverio. “So they are going to make mistakes but what is key is turning these mistakes into valuable lessons so it doesn’t happen again come February (at playoff time).”
Both teams had an off-night in the shooting department and as a result, the game featured a whopping 90 rebounds, including 50 by McGill. The Redmen hit 36.7 per cent from the field (22/60), including a 6-for-18 performance from downtown. But they also went a costly 9-for-19 from the foul-line. Bishop’s sunk 32.4 per cent from the floor (24/74) and 4-for-16 from beyond the arc. They too struggled at the line, making just eight of 18.
Thirteen seemed to be a magic number in the game. Aside from Dufort’s 13 points, McGill’s four other starters, namely Francois Bourque (3), Dele Ogundokun (3), Michael Peterkin (3) and point-guard Ave Bross (2) — all combined to tally just 13 points.
Former Concordia star Kyle Desmarais also tallied 13 points for the Gaiters.
McGill (0-1) will now travel crosstown to battle UQAM (1-0) on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 8.p.m. Bishop’s (1-0) will get an early battle for first place as they return to the big city to take on Concordia (1-0) on the same day.
REDMEN RAP: Francois Bourque was assessed a technical foul midway through the second quarter when he inadvertantly tossed the ball away from the official who was waiting for it to be handed over… Karim Sy-Morrisette, who played two seasons for McGill a couple of years ago, started for Bishop’s and saw 35 minutes of court time. He scored three points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.