How do you stop the Martlets’ junior centre Alex Kiss-Rusk? The Concordia Stingers (4-8) certainly didn’t have an answer to that question Thursday night, as the McGill Martlets (11-1) downed their opponents 65-54 in Love Competition Hall. While their 11-point home victory wasn’t enough to impress Head Coach Ryan Thorne, their 72-48 dismantling of the Stingers on the road did the trick for the 11th-year coach.
The Martlets found themselves down 7-0 to start the game but an 11-point second quarter by Kiss-Rusk had McGill up three at the half.
“She’s 6’4—she’s big,” Thorne said. “She can dominate in the paint, and when she looks to dominate in the paint, [good] things will happen.”
According to Thorne, he has been on Kiss-Rusk’s case for being too unselfish and passing out of scoring opportunities, but three straight games with 15, 20, and 14 points respectively should be enough for her to dispel her coach’s criticism.
The Martlets stretched their lead to seven in the third quarter, but they just couldn’t put away the Stingers, who took a two-point lead just before the seven-minute mark in the fourth. McGill fought back, led by fourth-year wing Marie-Love Michel, who came up big for the Martlets, scoring a season high nine points, all in the fourth quarter.
“We can fight when it’s time to […] but I already knew that,” Thorne said about his veteran squad. “We’ve got a good group of girls [who] have been there before and they know what it means to dig deep.”
While the Martlets continued to prove that they’re a tough team to put away, Thorne was unhappy with his team’s defence.
“Not happy, I don’t think we played well,” Thorne said. “I think Concordia fought hard [.…] Our overall team defence was poor and we let them get easy opportunities. I don’t think that’s the level of basketball we should be playing.”
Thorne’s post-game comments come as a bit of a surprise after his squad held Concordia seven per cent below their season shooting average and forced the Stingers into 6.5 more turnovers than their season average.
On Saturday, hoping to spark his squad, Thorne rejigged his starting lineup. Guard Carolann Cloutier found her way into the starting lineup, taking over for the struggling Marika Guerin. The move paid off for the Martlets, who shot 42.6 per cent from the field while holding the Stingers to their second-worst offensive performance of their season.
Concordia once again jumped out early, but a 23-point second frame by the Martlets coupled with some stingy defence was just too much for the Stingers to handle. Mariam Sylla led the way for McGill with 18 points on a scorching 78 per cent shooting. Cloutier again scored 12 points, this time as a starter, while Jenn Silver was dominant off the bench with 11 points and six rebounds.
The Martlets head to Bishop’s this Valentine’s Day for what could be a very one-sided game. The Gaiters have yet to win a game this season and haven’t put up much of a fight against McGill this season. If the Martlets come away with a victory in Lennoxville, they’ll have a chance to clinch the top seed in the RSEQ tournament in front of the McGill faithful Feb. 19 when they face off against the UQÀM Citadins.