Basketball, Sports

McGill men’s basketball falls to Ottawa despite inspiring comeback attempt

The McGill men’s basketball team (1–2) began this season’s back-to-back schedule on Oct. 15 with a heartbreaking defeat, losing 70-64 at home to the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees (2–0) despite an inspiring second-half comeback performance. 

The Gee-Gees started the game off strong with an effective full-court man-to-man press, preventing McGill from establishing any sort of offensive rhythm. Ottawa’s suffocating defence put heavy pressure on McGill throughout the quarter, forcing six early turnovers that translated into extra points for the Gee-Gees. McGill ended the frustrating first quarter trailing by 11 points.

The second quarter was more of the same: Ottawa’s full-court press continued to force more McGill turnovers for easy Gee-Gee baskets at the rim. While McGill’s defensive intensity kept fans from leaving the game before the half ended, McGill consistently failed to build up any offensive momentum throughout the quarter. The halftime score was 39-20, with Ottawa dominating the paint throughout the half.

The halftime break served as a much-needed reset for the Redbirds. Fifth-year guard Sam Jenkins explained that during the intermission, his coach gave the team a pep talk about working more cohesively.

“Coach Thorne’s message at halftime was to play our game on both sides of the ball,” Jenkins said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “[To play] as a team rather than five individuals.”

During the third quarter, McGill breathed life back into the home crowd. The Redbirds took better care of the ball, leading to far better offence in the third quarter—McGill were one point shy from scoring as much as they did in the entire first half. However, despite McGill establishing a great offensive flow, the third quarter ended with the Redbirds trailing 52-39 going into the final frame.

Despite the disappointing result, third-year guard Cameron Elliot was impressed with his team’s effort in the second half of the game.

“I thought we had a great second half, making a big comeback after a slow start,” Elliot said. “We did a lot of good things that allowed us to compete with one of the best teams in the country.”

Fifth-year guard Sam Jenkins agreed with Elliot, citing Coach Thorne’s directives as crucial for their success.

“On offence, we slowed down and started sharing the ball,” Jenkins said. “Coach stresses playing for your teammates first rather than looking for our own [opportunities], and I think that was reflected in our [second] half assist numbers.” 

With momentum on their side, the Redbirds started the fourth quarter with intensity as Jamal Mayali hit a huge and-one three, bringing the crowd to a frenzy as he stepped up to the line for a four-point play. McGill would go on to give the Gee-Gees a taste of their own medicine, launching their own man-to-man press which helped them force turnovers in consecutive defensive possessions. McGill looked poised to make an unbelievable comeback as the Gee-Gees were only up by six with eight minutes to play.

However, Ottawa’s top performer Maxime Boursiquot killed any hope left within McGill’s crowd. Finishing with 20 points on a perfect nine for nine from the field, including a huge corner three to stop the bleeding, Boursiquot put the Gee-Gees back up by eight. The home crowd was only further stunned by crafty guard Kevin Civil, who finished a tough running layup through traffic, pushing the lead to double digits.

With their backs against the wall once again, McGill’s mental toughness shined through, keeping the game close with intense defence and timely shot-making. Once more, Sam Jenkins kept McGill in the game with a barrage of three-pointers throughout the fourth quarter, capping off an excellent performance and finishing with a game-high 29 points on an efficient 12-19 shooting from the field. While a costly turnover with 48 seconds left would effectively end McGill’s inspiring comeback attempt, McGill’s effort and resilience brought a loud roar of approval from the home fans as the final whistle blew.

Moment of the Game:

Fifth-year guard Jamal Mayali hit a tough and-one three at the nine-minute mark, sparking a mini McGill run early on in the fourth. This play helped McGill cut what was once a 20-point lead to six.

Stat Corner:

Ottawa was clearly the more successful team near the hoop, holding a 40-22 advantage for points in the paint.

Quotable:

“To be a competitor means you always want to be the best. If you don’t believe you can beat the team you’re lining up against, you never stand a chance. I think we have a chance to beat every team we play. It’s not going to be easy but I think we can be one of the best teams in the country.” —Third-year guard Cameron Elliot on the upcoming season

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