Redmen send Bengals back home with tails between legs

Alice Walker

McGill’s Olivier Bouchard curls off a screen, sets his feet for an instant, rises up, and, with a flick of his wrist, sends the ball sailing through the cylinder. That’s the image seared in defenders’ minds after Sunday’s game against the University of Maine at Fort Kent Bengals, which McGill won 76-49. Diminutive in height alone, Bouchard, McGill’s 5’10” starting point guard knocked down four of six three-pointers and shot eight for 10 overall, diving through the trees in the paint and launching floaters that arced just out of reach of the waiting Bengals.

Bouchard established himself early as a one-man onslaught, scoring McGill’s first eight points in both the first and the second half. In between, he showed his versatility by getting his teammates involved, with 10 McGill players scoring for the game. The balanced scoring, exceptional zone defence, and a dominant third quarter propelled the Redmen to a comfortable win.

In a turnover-heavy game-McGill finished with 20, UMFK 22. The first quarter was still exceptional: McGill coughed up the rock a whopping seven times in the face of the Bengals’ press defence.

“We haven’t done our press break [the last couple days in practice] so we weren’t ready for their press,” said Head Coach David DeAveiro. “Once we started running our press break we were fine. That’s still something we’ve got to stop doing; we turn the ball over too much.”

Bouchard had a different opinion. “We just woke up. We were literally asleep when they started running their press,” he said.

The Bengals led 16-10 with a minute and a half remaining in the first quarter, but mental errors allowed McGill to get back into the game. First, on a long rebound from a missed three-pointer, McGill forward Michael White was able to snag the offensive rebound and convert to cut the lead to four. After the Bengals bricked two free throws with 35 seconds left, McGill’s David McMurty drew a foul while shooting a three-pointer, making two of three attempts from the line. Finally, after a turnover by the Bengals, Simon Bibeau was inexplicably fouled, and made both shots to tie the game. Bibeau then poked the ball loose as UMFK attempted to put up a shot at the buzzer, maintaining the tie.

“I do take a lot of pride in those hustle plays: trying to get deflections, getting rebounds—I think I’m a more complete player when I do all that,” said Bibeau. “And obviously I try to score at the same time.”

In the third quarter, McGill tightened the screws defensively and held their opponents scoreless for seven and a half minutes, handily winning the quarter 25-10 and effectively putting the game out of reach.

The Bengals were vocally frustrated with the officiating, particularly when a number of close blocking and charging calls went in favour of the Redmen.

Late in the third, tensions boiled over. After McGill drew a touch foul for two free throws on one end, the Bengals’ Manny Odughela was called for a travelling violation when he attempted to spin through traffic on his way to the basket. UMFK Head Coach Eric Werntgen seemed unperturbed at first, but took both hands and gestured, towards no one in particular, two thumbs down. The refs took exception, or saw an opportunity to reassert control of the game, and quickly T’d him up. However, as Werntgen quickly explained, the two thumbs down gesture is the UMFK signal to trap the ball carrier. The technical foul was rescinded.

Last week’s male player of the week, Kyle Bernard, didn’t see much court time against the Bengals.

“He hurt his knee in practice. He probably shouldn’t have played because he didn’t practice for three days but he said he wanted to try it out,” said DeAveiro. “So this was like a test run for him.”

The Redmen play at home next against the Concordia Stingers this Thursday January 13. The Stingers beat McGill 72-68 in their last meeting on November 26.

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