On Feb. 17, the McGill men’s basketball team (6–0) returned to the court for the first time in almost three months, lengthening their win streak to six games with a decisive 84-62 win over Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) (2–4), then a narrow 80-79 victory the next day. Thursday’s game started strong for the Redbirds, who sustained a lead from the first quarter to the last. Although UQAM demonstrated some beautiful passing that led to a few key scoring opportunities, the Redbirds dominated the game and easily secured the win.
Sam Jenkins, a fifth-year guard, was on fire with a game-high 19 points, including five three-pointers and nine rebounds. Jamal Mayali, also a fifth-year guard, had an impressive game with several three-pointers, contributing 16 points overall and four rebounds, ranking second in points for the Redbirds.
“We moved the ball very well offensively, and as a result, a lot of guys were getting good quality shots and defensively, we were on point with our rotations for most of the game,” Mayali wrote to The McGill Tribune.
Like many others, starting guard Cameron Elliot was excited to be back in action and was impressed with his team’s performance after an 11-week break.
“I think we played well as a team, considering it was our first game back after a long break, but we have a lot to improve on if we want to reach our goals for the year,” Elliot said. “I think we did a good job of playing with flow and keeping the ball moving at all times, and I know we will only get better with time.”
Less than 48 hours later, the Redbirds rematched against UQAM on Feb. 19. While the game was a much closer affair, the Redbirds held on to win 80-79, coming back from a 12-point deficit to win on a buzzer beater from first-year guard Sidney Gauthier.
In contrast to Thursday’s game, the Redbirds were mostly trailing their opponents, only gaining the lead with just over four minutes left in the last quarter. With less than two minutes left in the game, the Redbirds, trailing by six, called a timeout. After an apparently successful pep talk, Gauthier and third-year guard Elliot made two back-to-back layups to shrink the deficit to two.
With 30 seconds left in the game, now only down by three points, McGill called another timeout. This time, after a jump shot from Jenkins and two missed free throws from UQAM, the Redbirds were within one point of their opponents, and Gauthier’s last minute heroics clinched the team’s sixth victory.
“I think it was certainly a team effort, and I never would want to take all the credit for that play, because all I did was make the shot,” said Gauthier. “[But] the feeling after seeing the ball go in is a feeling I never want to forget. It gives me chills just thinking about it again.”
Fourth-year forward Kevin Li was happy with his team’s performance against a team he considers to be one of their top rivals.
“For our team, I think it was a great two wins,” Li said. “The UQAM team is the team that beat us in my first year. We beat them in the regular season but when we went to the playoffs we lost to them twice. I think it’s a great message that we sent to them, saying we are not losing this year.”
The Redbirds return to the court next weekend with a home-and-away series against Laval on Feb. 24 and Feb. 26.
Stat Corner: The Redbirds current record of 6–0 marks the team’s best start since 2001.
Moment of the Game: With no time remaining on the clock and the Redbirds down by one point, first-year guard Sidney Gauthier netted a jump shot off an assist from Cameron Elliot to win Saturday’s game 80-79.
Quotable: “It’s just been so nice to be back on the floor with everybody that it’s hard to look past the excitement of the moment. But we’re hungry for more than just regular season wins, and I’m really looking forward to competing when it matters the most.” — Cameron Elliot on the return to competition.