MONTREAL — Mariam Sylla and Alex Kiss-Rusk each collected a “double-double” as the No.4-ranked McGill women’s basketball team cruised to a 65-53 road victory at Concordia, Saturday.
McGill, which has now won four straight over Concordia and 16 of the last 23 confrontations from their cross-town rivals, improved their division-leading record to 14-1 in the RSEQ conference. The fourth-place Stingers, who will most likely be McGill’s first-round opponents in the conference semifinals, dropped to 6-9.
The 14 wins by the Martlets is the team’s highest regular-season total in almost two decades, dating back to 1996-97 when they played a 20-game schedule and set a school record for wins with a 16-4 campaign.
“I mentioned that to the girls before the game that we hadn’t had more than 13 wins (during my 12 years) and I appreciate the effort that they made to get that 14th victory,” said McGill head coach Ryan Thorne, who has now guided the team to at least 13 victories in four of the last five years. “We played well, moved the ball (with authority) got everyone involved in the play and had some good scoring opportunities.”
Sylla scored a game-high 20 points with an efficient 9-for-13 shooting performance from the floor and a 2-or-2 effort from the foul-line. The 6-foot-1 pharmacology junior also contributed 11 rebounds in another one of her patented outings.
Kiss-Rusk, a third-year centre from Beaconsfield, Que., tallied 13 points and 11 rebounds. She made 6 of 13 shots from the floor and went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe.
Teammate Gabriela Hebert, a 5-foot-8 wing, scored 11 points while pulling down seven boards.
“They all started out well and Sylla played with a strong inside presence,” said Thorne. “What that did was open up a lot of outside opportunities. As a result, Hebert took advantage of that and went to the boards really well so she got some easy buckets as a result. Anytime you play a good inside-out game, it’s going to open up some perimetre shots.”
Also, Dianna Ros, a senior guard from Montreal, contributed eight points and dished out six assists.
The Martlets, who are ranked first among CIS teams in rebound margin per game (with a an average of +14.5 per game), had a 39-21 edge in that department.
Both teams came out of the gate hard and were separated by only one point after the first quarter with McGill holding a 16-15 advantage. The Martlets outscored Concordia 14-12 in the second stanza, to take a 30-27 halftime lead. McGill put up 19 and 16 over the final two frames while holding the Stingers to 15 and 11, respectively.
The Martlets shot 44.3 per cent from the field (27/61) and went 4-for-16 from three-point range. Concordia’s shooting game struggled, with 32.2 per cent efficiency from the floor (19/59) and a 6-for-27 performance from long distance.
For Concordia, Marilyse Roy-Viau of Mirabel, Que., and Kaylah Barrett of Brampton, Ont., both drained 16 points apiece. Daphne Thouin was the only other Stinger to reach double figures with 11 points. She knocked down three shots from long range.
The Martlets, who have won 21 of their last 23 regular season games — and own a 64-15 league record over the past five seasons — will close out the season against third-place Laval (7-8) on Feb.27 at Love Competition Hall. Tip-off is set for (6 p.m., followed by the men’s game.
If McGill wins that meeting, Concordia (6-9) needs to win a road game against second-place UQAM (10-4) on Feb. 26 for have a short at third place. The Stingers and Laval split their four-game series and the head-to-head differential is even, so a third tie-breaker would be needed, which is believed to be the best point-differential in the RSEQ standings. Laval is currently at +34, while Concordia is +30.
“We’ve improved and are starting to play a more aggressive game, we’re attacking a lot more, so I’m happy with that,” cautioned Thorne. “We still got a ways to go before we hit our peak and that’s a good thing.”