Waterloo, Ont. – Two of the most potent scorers in the province will face off in this week’s OUA Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters Canada, as the Laurier Golden Hawks get set to host the Laurentian Voyageurs. Both teams are set to roll out their early MVP candidates in yet another meeting between two of the conference’s toughest squads, and it all goes down on Friday in Waterloo.
When talking about the Voyageurs, it’s difficult not to immediately think of Kadre Gray (Toronto, Ont.), who has been a menace on the hardwood since entering the OUA in the 2016-17 season. After being named the nation’s top rookie in his freshman year, he took incredible strides to not only lead him to even more provincial and national hardware, but also bring the team to the forefront of the men’s basketball conversation. His efforts sparked a seven-win improvement a year ago, and even after missing the final stretch due to injury, Gray certainly played a leading role for the Sudbury squad.
If possible, Gray has taken his game up yet another level this season, as he currently leads the OUA with 34.5 PPG and 7.2 APG. He rounds out his impressive stat line with 8.3 rebounds per contest as well, totals that have been buoyed by his season-opening triple-double and his career-high scoring effort his next time out. And once again, with his own success, there has been success for the team as a whole, as the northern squad has come out of the gates with a 4-2 start.
Despite losses against Brock and, in their most recent outing, Guelph, the Voyageurs remain one of the top teams in the province, boasting the potential to win each time they step on the court. But as their season continues to unfold in what they hope is an upward trend, they’ll face another stiff test on Friday against the Golden Hawks.
It will be tough sledding for Laurier as well, but they come into the matchup having already crossed paths with several of the conference’s best this season and have proven on multiple occasions that they can compete with the elite. The Hawks took Carleton down to the wire in the Ravens’ Nest, defeated the Gee-Gees on the second half of the back-to-back games in the nation’s capital, and have scored additional wins over Western, Toronto, and Queen’s as well.
The team’s 5-3 record has them in the second spot in the West Division and they can thank their sophomore scorer, Ali Sow (Ottawa, Ont.), for much of their success. The reigning OUA Rookie of the Year has elevated his play to sit among the conference’s best, especially on the offensive end. He currently ranks second in scoring (22.5 PPG), and has shouldered the offensive load for the purple and gold, as evidenced by his individual onslaught down the stretch this past weekend to produce Laurier’s final 11 points in a come-from-behind win over York.
Also chipping in as point-producers for Laurier, however, are Kemel Archer (Brampton, Ont.) and Ntore Habimana (Mississauga, Ont.), both of whom check in with double digit averages of 11.3 and 10.4, respectively. The latter is among the team’s top three-point shooters, connecting on 37.5% of his shots from beyond the arc, but he is certainly not alone in this affinity for the deep ball. Laurier leads the league in both three-pointers attempted (31.8) and made (10.8) per game, which means that Laurentian must be ready to play away from the basket to limit their beyond-the-arc barrage.
Not only do they shoot well from deep, but they can defend it as well, sitting second in the conference with an opponents’ 3PT% of just 26.8. They can also stand tall in the paint, with 3.0 blocks per game (6th in OUA) and can wreak havoc with over nine steals per contest as well; all facets that will need to be on point to stop Gray and company on Friday.
Certainly, for the Voyageurs, they’ll hope that their third-ranked 88.2 points per game can counter the Hawks’ stingy defence, but they’ll need to be firing on all cylinders to make it happen. While the reigning MVP is the focal point, a trio of additional Voyageurs may prove to be the difference-makers, as each has chipped in at least nine points per contest thus far. Anthony Iacoe (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.), Josis Mikia-Thomas (Toronto, Ont.), and Joseph Hlady (Mississauga, Ont.) have all shown the ability to contribute, combining for 28 points per game to date, and it is this secondary scoring that will be key to getting Laurentian their fifth win of the season.
Collectively, these players and the entirety of the team help Laurentian get up and down the floor, put up a lot of shots, and make the defence work all game long. And the top-five ranks in both field goal percentage and assists make it clear that they not only like to have the ball in their hands, but know what to do with it once it gets there.
It’s always fun to see top talent going toe-to-toe, and with all of the teams’ strengths colliding in this weekend’s marquee matchup, the table is certainly set for fireworks from some of the conference’s top stars. The game can be seen live on November 23 at 8:00pm at Laurier’s Athletix Complex Gym on oua.tv or via the oua.tv app, which can be downloaded on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku.