OUA East final: No. 1 Carleton 82, No. 3 Ottawa 61 — The Ravens often find a way of cutting to the quick, eh?
When you walk into the Ravens' Nest, your head is full of all sorts of ifs to contemplate, especially when you're rooting for the story. Carleton made it seem so slap-your-forehead simple. The Ravens got open looks, held the Gee-Gees' JJs, Josh Gibson-Bascombe and Josh Wright, to just one basket between them in the first 20 minutes and the game was done by halftime. It was only a 15-point margin, but like Dave DeAveiro said, "there's no playing catch-up against that team."
Ottawa, as both Dave Smart and Aaron Doornekamp said, might be the second-best team in Canada. It just had no chance of taking down Carleton in the final home game for the Kingston trio of Doornekamp, Stu Turnbull and Rob Saunders, even though the Ravens, as Final 8 hosts, had nothing tangible on the line last night.
"We don't have to win these games (tonight's and the Wilson Cup vs. Western on Saturday), but we have to get better every day," Doornekamp said after putting up 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists. "You don't often get a situation like this, where you have a great atmosphere and you're playing the No. 2 team in the country, at worst No. 3, so tonight was very good for us."
Carleton had 16-4 and 16-3 runs in the first 20 minutes, never trailing after a pair of threes in quick succession from Mike Kenny (11 points) near the end of the first quarter and Ottawa started to recede, inch by inch, which might not wear well on the Final 8 seeding committee. The Gee-Gees, who have averaged nearly 84 points per game vs. the rest of the OUA, have been held to 72, 69 and 59 in their three losses to the Ravens.
"I still think they (Ottawa) are the second-best team in Canada and if they beat us in 10 days, they'll be the best team in Canada," Smart said. "They got some good looks that didn't go in. I think they're the second-best team in Canada."
Carleton's five-man game was in full effect. You know the drill. One shot per possession, make the other team beat you with its third and fourth-best scorers. Kenny, Saunders and Turnbull did a job vs. Wright (13 points on 5-of-16 shooting) and Gibson-Bascombe (12). The halftime boxscore didn't even credit JGB with taking a shot (he had two trips to the foul line). When was the last time that happened to him?
"We just tried to play the percentages with them because they have so much talent," said Saunders, the OUA East defensive player of the year who had 11 points, including some big baskets early in the second quarter when it was still a one-shot game. "Sometimes they're going to make shots. We have to give a lot of credit to the posts, because they let us take some chances. There's a lot of trust there."
That second run in the first half, highlighted some some slick interior passing with most of the points coming through Doornekamp and Kevin McCleery (17 points, six rebounds), pretty much did in Ottawa.
"I thought we did a decent job of executing," Smart said. "I thought we were aggressive against their pressure and their switches. When you play Ottawa, you want to contain their transition and we were able to do that, for the most part."
The Gee-Gees have now lost the last four times they were in a game where the winner qualified for the Final 8, but three were against Carleton. Talk about a cross to bear. One would wonder how they keep coming back from that. Gibson-Bascombe said the right things about having to regroup. DeAveiro, as you might expect, wasn't putting a ton of stock in Ottawa's regular-season win in Windsor's gym, since that was four months ago (Josh Wright wasn't yet playing for Ottawa).
All in all, Carleton looked impressive. They won by more than 20 despite a rough shooting night for Turnbull, who was 2-of-16 for six points just hours after being named OUA East player of the year.
Ottawa should like its chances against Windsor, considering that they will have the two best guards in the game and will be at home to a team which has a reputation as an easier mark on the road. Ottawa has only five losses all season, all to Top 5 teams, but when three are to a team you share a city with, it might be tough to keep that in perspective.
(Cross-posted to cisblog.ca.)