BURLINGTON, Ont. – The holidays are coming early for OUA basketball fans, as the nation’s top two teams are set to do battle on the hardcourt this weekend. In what will truly be a clash of the titans, the top-ranked Carleton Ravens men’s basketball team travels to St. Catharines to face the No. 2 Brock Badgers at the Meridian Centre.
Both teams have yet to see the loss column this year, but their undefeated seasons are on the line this weekend in head-to-head action. While both teams will see the court on Friday as well, the latter half of their respective back-to-backs will be a true marquee matchup; one that fans haven’t seen since their semifinal clash last season.
Amidst the combatants’ quest for a national title, Carleton was able to defeat Brock in OUA semifinal action, on their way to their seventh consecutive U SPORTS crown. One of the determining factors in the Ravens’ victory was their rebounding, as they beat the Badgers 47-23 on the glass to help enforce their will in the 89-64 win. Despite a sizzling scoring effort from Johneil Simpson (24 pts), the Badgers were largely shut down on the offensive side, while the Ravens received double-digit performances from three starters, led by now alumnus Kaza Kajami-Keane.
Brock will look to flip the script in this weekend’s regular season tilt and they’ll do so on the back of nine consecutive victories to open their 2017-18 campaign. Brock has managed this win streak by an average margin of over 17 PPG, but while the team’s ability to score is well-documented – ranking fourth in the conference in points per game – their defensive abilities also place them third in points allowed. The latter will be put to the test against the nation’s top offence, as the Ravens enter play averaging over 90 points per game (91.3).
It’s no surprise that the Ravens can score, and one of the major reasons why is their ability to beat teams from anywhere on the floor. The reigning national champions sit in and around the top of the OUA in FG% (4th), 3PT% (2nd), and FT% (1st). They are an unselfish team, as established in their OUA-leading 19.9 assists per game, who takes care of the ball, and even when they aren’t able to find the basket, they secure plenty of second-chance opportunities, ranking second in the OUA in offensive rebounding (14.8 per game).
Leading the charge offensively for the Ravens is Eddie Ekiyor, who enters play with an average of 15.5 PPG, to go along with his double-double average of 10.3 RPG. Ekiyor has plenty of support, however, as Carleton boasts a quartet of players who score double-digit points per game, including Yasiin Joseph (14.1 PPG), Cam Smythe (10.8 PPG), and TJ Lall (10.3 PPG). It is never an easy task to stop the scoring, as witnessed in particular by the team’s 118-point explosion against Waterloo earlier in the season, but Brock will look to keep the Ravens at bay as best they can.
The Badgers can cause plenty of headaches for the opposition, especially on the defensive side. They are adept at shutting down the long ball, limiting their opponents to an OUA-low 26.5 3PT%, but their agility and physicality allows them to also sit second in the conference in steals per game (11.7) and third in blocks per contest (5.0). A key contributor on this end of the floor, as well as on offence, is Dani Elgadi, who averages nearly two steals and blocks per game, respectively, while also grabbing over eight boards per contest.
Looking to halt the potent Badgers attack, meanwhile, will be the conference’s top defence, as the Ravens surrender an average of just 59.1 PPG on 33.3% shooting. This dynamic two-way play will mean that the province’s eighth-leading scorer, Cassidy Ryan, will have his work cut out for him, but the senior should be up to the task.
In Ryan’s 29.1 MPG, he has been a force inside and out, shooting over 45% from the field and nearly 35% from downtown. Ryan, along with the Elgadi (14.3 PPG), Tyler Brown (11.0 PPG), and the sharpshooting Johneil Simpson (15.2 PPG) – who connects on over three three-pointers per game while shooting 40% from deep – will be key figures in penetrating a potent Ravens’ defence. The Badgers must also maintain their steady efforts on the glass and in their ball movement, both of which have been key strengths for the squad this season and rank among the OUA’s best.
The basketball action kicks off at 6:00pm at the Meridian Centre, as the women’s teams from Brock and Carleton take to the hardcourt, while the men’s matchup is set to tip-off at 8:00pm to end the double-header. For those unable to attend the game, you can catch all the action on OUA.tv.