After clinching a playoff berth with back-to-back wins against the Bishop’s Gaiters last week, the CIS no. 8 ranked McGill Redmen (9-2) returned home with control of first place in the conference to face the struggling UQAM Citadins. McGill jumped out to an early 18-point lead in the first-quarter, but a questionable substitution pattern left the door open for the desperate Citadins who brought it back to a five-point game in the fourth. UQAM—playing the part of the pesky underdog—refused to back down all game, but the Redmen hit crucial shots down the stretch and never relinquished the lead en route to a 90-72 victory.
The Redmen offence was sizzling hot from the field, shooting a new season-high of 59 per cent. Veteran forward Vincent Dufort had a tall task in front of him trying to compete with the reigning scoring champion of the RSEQ, UQAM forward Alexandre Bernard. While Bernard topped Dufort in scoring with a game-high 30 points, Dufort put on a shooting clinic, making three of every four shots—including two from behind the arc en route to a team high 24 points. Dufort was everywhere for the Redmen, as he recorded his fifth double-double of the season with a team-high 11 boards.
“I’ve been working on my shot and I was fortunate enough that it was dropping tonight,” Dufort said. “I just tried to find what advantage I had, whether it was in the post or on the perimeter.”
Strong shooting from the perimeter has been a trend for the Redmen all season. Sharpshooter Thomas Lacy came off the bench to tally an efficient 10 points in limited playing time, while freshman Michael Peterkin’s strong defensive play was accompanied with an equally efficient 11 points in just 18 minutes.
The Redmen dealt with foul trouble all game as they tried to stop Bernard and point guard Richard Addai as the two combined for 53 of the visitors’ 72 points.
“Our scouts say they only have three guys that can score,” said Head Coach David DeAveiro. “Our job is to shut those guys down, and we didn’t do a very good job of that today.”
McGill has struggled to put together four complete quarters of basketball this season, and Thursday night’s game was no different.
“I don’t know if there is any other team in the country that dresses seven freshmen every night,” DeAverio said. “These guys have never done it before […] a full 40 [minutes] is going to take some understanding and a high level of concentration.”
On Saturday, the Redmen were forced to put more than 40 minutes of effort in against UQAM in a rematch at the Centre Sportif. McGill clawed out a 78-76 victory in an overtime thriller that saw star point guard Simon Bibeau hit a game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation. Bibeau stuffed the stat sheet and led the team by example, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
While the Redmen are now in control of their playoff destiny and are in the running to finish first in the RSEQ, there may be a disadvantage in finishing the regular season on top of the conference. The RSEQ tournament is set to be played in Quebec City, home of an underrated Laval team that handed the Redmen their first loss earlier in the season.
“There’s really no advantage to winning the conference for us because [we] don’t get home court advantage,” DeAverio said. “So at this point we’ve got to […] try some new things [.…] We tried to do some of that today, and unfortunately it didn’t work for us.”
The Redmen have four more games to work out all the kinks before the playoffs start. Look for DeAveiro to mix up the lineup, and for the team’s freshmen to see increased playing time in the next two weeks as the squad gets geared for the madness of March. McGill’s next game will take place on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 8:00 p.m. as the Redmen look to take on the Laval Rouge et Or at Love Competition Hall.