The McGill Redmen (5-1) continued their quest for a second straight RSEQ Championship with a home-and-home series against the Laval Rouge et Or (2-4). In the first matchup of the weekend, McGill pummeled the visiting Rouge et Or with an 88-69 victory at home. A day later, the two teams headed out to Quebec City, a trip that ended in a 78-68 loss as the Redmen suffered their first defeat of the season.
In the first game of the weekend, the Redmen offence was firing on all cylinders despite the absence of star point guard Simon Bibeau, who was away for personal reasons. The team topped its season scoring average by 13 points against an underrated Laval squad. With the game close in the early stages, Coach DeAverio made the decision to move third-year shooting guard Vincent Dufort to small forward, in the hopes of exploiting Laval’s man-to-man defence. The move paid off; the Rouge et Or had no answer for Dufort’s speed as he dropped a season high 27 points.
“I just had a mismatch,” said Dufort. “They had a bigger guy on me, and I was able to take him off the dribble.”
Freshman forward Francois Bourque continued his dominant season, posting his third career double-double with an efficient 23 points and 12 rebounds in just 21 minutes. With Dufort playing small forward, Nathan Joyal saw his minutes increase as he tallied double digits for the third time this season.
Point guards Ave Bross and Jenning Leung had big shoes to fill with Bibeau out of the lineup. Bross facilitated the offence and played strong defensively while the freshman Leung brought a youthful energy off the team’s bench.
“I thought [Bross] did a really good job in the second half,” said Coach DeAverio. “[Bross and Leung] worked well together and they both picked each other up at crucial times.”
The Rouge et Or jumped out to an early lead in the first frame, but McGill kept it close while coping with foul trouble. The Redmen tied it up late, before a Dufort jumper put them ahead in the final minute of the second quarter. The team came out of the break with newfound defensive intensity and increased their lead to 13 by the end of the third frame. The Redmen’s smothering second-half defence held Laval’s big men, Boris Hadzimuratovic and Antoine Beaumier, to a combined six points after both reached double digits in the first half.
“[Laval] played exceptionally well in the first half,” said DeAverio. “We didn’t protect the basket […], so our objective in the second half was to guard the paint […] I think they scored [just] 29 in the second half [….] Our defence was the big difference.”
Unfortunately, the team’s defensive intensity was not the same the following day in Quebec City, as the Redmen gave up a regular season-high 78 points. McGill dealt with foul trouble and turnover issues all game.
“Playing on the road is always a difficult task and [playing] back-to-back games adds a whole new component,” DeAverio said after the loss. “We are a young team that is still evolving, searching for consistency in our level of effort and concentration.”
The Redmen get a much-needed break before Bibeau rejoins the team and they head out for another home-and-home series with Concordia (2-3) on Jan. 23 and Jan. 25. Look for McGill to bounce back against a surging Stingers team that has won its last two contests.