Second place McGill came into last Friday’s game at Concordia with something to prove. They entered Loyola Gym just two games back of the Stingers, looking to make the Quebec University Basketball League a two-team race. But after Concordia’s 86-79 win, the Redmen left Loyola realizing they’ve still got a ways to go.
“We still don’t match up with them physically,” said McGill head coach Craig Norman. “They’re not just a bigger team, but they played bigger.”
Coach Norman pointed to Concordia’s 38-24 rebounding edge, plus their ability to get to the foul line, as areas that combined to give the fifth-ranked Stingers the upper hand.
Concordia’s 17 made free throws were six more than the Redmen even attempted.
“They were playing on the outside most of the game,” said Concordia forward Patrick Perrotte. “They were taking a lot of threes, and playing away from the basket. That’s not usually where you’ll draw too many fouls.”
Perrotte put his six-foot-three, 230-pound frame to good use over McGill’s lanky defenders, finishing just one rebound shy of a double-double with nine boards and 21 points. Dwayne Buckley led all scorers with 23 points.
While McGill generated very little offense from inside the key, it was their effective long-range shooting that kept the game a lot closer than it could have been. The Redmen were good on seven of 10 three point attempts in the first half, and had a 36-32 lead with less than four minutes to play in the first half.
“We weren’t concerned about those [three-pointers],” said Stingers guard Ben Sormonte. “Those are low percentage shots, and we’d rather they take those shots, than anything closer in. It’s the law of averages. Eventually they would start to miss them.”
Concordia appeared to have pulled away early in the second half, leading by as many as 11 points. But with point guard Damian Buckley sitting out his fourth straight game for academic reasons; the Stingers once again struggled with the lead.
McGill pulled within one, 76-75, before a Dwayne Buckley lay-up, and a technical foul against Redmen coach Norman helped distance the home team.
Six-foot-seven, 270-pound Concordia centre Jamal Gallier, also found himself with a considerable size advantage against McGill.
Gallier’s 13 rebounds were the most by any Stinger all year, and his nine points were a season-high.
A pair of missed free throws in the game’s final moments with the outcome no longer in doubt was the only thing keeping Gallier from joining the rest of the starting lineup in double figures. Andre Johnny’s 16 points were also a personal season-high.
As a number of Stingers see more minutes in the backcourt with the absence of point guard Damian Buckley, Gallier could also see more court-time down low during the second half of the season.
In addition to the loss of Buckley, the Stingers have also been without centre Rob Cooper since the start of January. Cooper left Concordia for family reasons after averaging 5.8 points in just under 14 minutes per game. That should translate into bigger roles for Gallier and rookie Desmond Murphy during the final seven games.