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Jenning Leung pushes the pace on a Redmen fast break. (L-A Benoit / McGill Tribune)

Redmen cling to top seed, split weekend series

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McGill Redmen
60

UQÀM Citadins
59

It certainly wasn’t a pretty weekend for the McGill Redmen (10-5), but it looks like the squad will head into the RSEQ tournament as the top seed regardless. On Thursday night, the Redmen faced off against a desperate UQÀM (4-10) squad, who needed a victory to stay alive in the playoff hunt. The Citadins gave McGill all they could handle, but the Redmen squeaked out a one-point 60-59 victory to avoid the upset. Two days later, the Redmen traveled over to Concordia where the Stingers managed to defeat a hobbled McGill squad 69-61.

With sophomore guard Dele Ogundokun out of the lineup due to an ankle injury, Head Coach David DeAveiro turned to freshman guard Jawara Pedican to start against the Citadins. Pedican struggled early, scoring just three points before being relegated to the bench for the entire second half. UQÀM certainly wasn’t spectacular, but with Ogundokun and senior forward Rodrigo Imperador out of the lineup, the Redmen struggled to score.

“Defensively, they caused us a lot of troubles with their switching,” DeAveiro said.

Fifth year wing Alexandre Bernard couldn’t go wrong for the Citadins in the first half, scoring 15 of his 25 points in the first two quarters.

“Bernard was outstanding tonight,” DeAveiro said. “We had no answer for him.”

It was only in the second half that the Redmen were finally able to contain the 24-year old star, holding him to 10 points on 37.5 per cent shooting.

After a miserable six-point second quarter, McGill found itself trailing by eight heading into the break. DeAveiro decided to shorten the bench in the second half, a decision that paid off, as sophomore guards Jenning Leung and Regis Ivaniukas combined for 21 second half points.

“My teammates were making good decisions and I was open in the corners,” Ivaniukas said.

Down by two with just under three minutes remaining, second year big man François Bourque found himself open at the top of the arc for a three. Converting at a 23 per cent rate from long range this season, he’s not normally who the Redmen trust to hit threes, but when his team needed him most, Bourque stepped up and nailed it.

UQÀM pulled ahead by one with a minute remaining before Redmen captain Vincent Dufort got to the line and hit both of his free throws to give the Redmen a two-point lead.

With 12 seconds remaining, UQÀM had the ball and was down by one, but McGill smothered the Citadins and forced a contested jump shot that was off the mark.

“We just kind of find ways to win games down the stretch,” DeAveiro said. “We dig down deep and just find a way.”

Unfortunately, the Redmen couldn’t close out the Stingers on Saturday. Again, McGill started out slow with Ogundokun out of the lineup, scoring just seven points in the first quarter. Concordia pulled ahead by 10 in the third, before the Redmen stormed back to take a five-point lead early in the fourth. The Stingers responded with a 10-2 run and never relinquished the lead, beating McGill by eight.

The goal for the squad is to hoist a third straight RSEQ Championship, but for that to happen, they need to get healthy and regain their edge.

“We have to put a full 40 [minutes] together against Laval [next Friday night],” sophomore guard Michael Peterkin said. “Games are only going to get tougher from here on out. We’re a better team than we’re showing right now.”

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