Quest for the Cup: A closer look at the quarterfinal matchups hitting the hardwood

Quest for the Cup: A closer look at the quarterfinal matchups hitting the hardwood

Burlington, Ont. - Round 1 is in the books and we're down to just eight teams as we flip the page to quarterfinal action in the quest for the Wilson Cup. With the top seeds lying in wait during the opening games for their Saturday combatants, the die has now been cast on the next wave of postseason action, but how do the remaining squads stack up? 

No. 5 Queen’s Gaels (12-11) v. No. 1 Carleton Ravens (22-1)


Pre-Game | Fresh off their nail-biting win in the opening round of the OUA playoffs, the No. 5 Queen’s Gaels will look to pull off yet another upset when they hit the road to battle the high-powered Carleton Ravens in their quarterfinal matchup on Saturday. With the Ravens losing just once in the regular season and, in doing so, earning those extra few days of rest for this weekend’s tilt, it will be a tall task for the upset-minded Gaels to tackle the perennial powerhouse Ravens on their home court.

Players to Watch | The Gaels found themselves in a dog fight down to the final buzzer in Round 1 against the Laurentian Voyageurs, but a late jumper from Tanner Graham (Kingston, Ont.) put Queen’s ahead by one and they held on in the final seconds for the 73-72 victory. The usual suspects led the way for the Gaels in the win, but the group as a whole was paced by 25 points, six rebounds, and three assists from fifth-year guard Jaz Bains (Brampton, Ont.). Bains and Kadre Gray (Toronto, Ont.) went head-to-head throughout their first-round festivities, and while Gray outscored Bains by three points individually, it was the Tricolour that got the last laugh. Graham finished the night with eight rebounds and three blocks to go along with his 17 points, none bigger than the two that ultimately gave Queen’s the road win. Against a Carleton team that’s loaded with talent, Bains and Graham will need to once again be the leading figures on both ends of the floor as they look to notch a second postseason upset and send shockwaves through the OUA playoff picture.

The Ravens have 13 players who have played in at least four games this season and have made some sort of offensive contribution to the team. All 13 players are averaging at least 3.7 points per game, while four players are in double-digits. Up and down their roster, the Ravens have depth and talent in spades, and they can roll out different lineups at any given time without missing a beat. Forward Eddie Ekiyor (Ottawa, Ont.) has come off the bench more times (13) than he’s been a starter (10), yet he leads the team with 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Ekiyor has been highly effective from the field this season, shooting 63.8% over 23 regular season games, but certainly isn’t the only threat. TJ Lall (Cambridge, Ont.) ranks second on the team in both scoring (12.5 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg) and is a threat to go off on any given night as well. One could list every player on the Ravens’ roster as a player to watch come Saturday, so instead of doing that, just sit back and watch the entire team.

Season Series | Queen’s didn’t fare well against the Ravens during the regular season, much like the rest of the OUA. In their first matchup back in January, the Ravens got 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench from Ekiyor in their 95-65 drubbing of the Gaels. All 12 players who saw the court for Carleton in the game recorded at least two points. The second game was back in Kingston on the Gaels’ home floor, but the venue was about the only thing different in that one. This time, however, it was Munis Tutu (Windsor, Ont.) who scored a game-high 22 points to lead Carleton to the regular season sweep of the Gaels with an 81-61 victory.

January 18, 2019 | Queen’s 65 Carleton 95
February 9, 2019 | Carleton 81 Queen’s 61

 

No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees (15-8) v. No. 2 Ryerson Rams (21-2)


Pre-Game | Two of the top 10 teams in the country will take to the court on Saturday in Toronto as the Ottawa Gee-Gees look to settle a score with the Ryerson Rams in their quarterfinal clash. After two not-so-close regular season showdowns with the Rams, the Gee-Gees will be looking to prove that they are a true contender for the Wilson Cup with a strong showing on the road against another perennial championship threat. The Rams, on the other hand, will be looking to get another step closer toward a return trip to the provincial finale to try and bring the title back to The Six after falling just one game short a year ago. With so much on the line and the competition getting tougher, this one will surely be must-see TV.

Players to Watch | Against the York Lions in the first round, the Gee-Gees were firing on all cylinders, especially on offence. Ottawa put up 92 points on 48.6% shooting from the floor and 42.9% from three-point range in the win. Four players reached double-digits on the night, and the pair of Guillaume Pepin (Montreal, Que.) and Gage Sabean (Port Williams, N.S.) went for 20+ points each. Pepin had himself a strong first season in the OUA, and after translating the regular season success into their playoff opener with a 21-point performance, he will remain a key piece for Ottawa to make a championship run. Not to be outdone, Sabean added 20 points and seven rebounds of his own to complete the capable one-two punch. Add in the likes of Kevin Civil (Montreal, Que.) and Brandon Robinson (Montreal, Que.) to the mix and Ottawa has a team with a healthy balance of youth and experience that can turn some heads this weekend.

Ryerson knows what it takes to make it to the national championship game. Despite losing in the Wilson Cup to Carleton last season, the Rams advanced to the U SPORTS final where they ultimately fell to the Calgary Dinos in heart-breaking fashion, 79-77. This time around, the Rams have their sights set on coming out victorious in both title games and will have a roster that’s ready to do just that. With five players averaging double-digit points per game through the regular season, it’s easy to see why the Rams are among the top teams in the country. Guards Myles Charvis (Mississauga, Ont.) and JV Mukama (Hamilton, Ont.) have led the way for most of the year and they rank one-two in terms of leading scorers for the Rams. Both players have impressive two-way games, with Mukama averaging team-highs of 18.4 points and 7.4 rebounds, while Charvis chips in with 16.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and a team-best 4.8 assists. Forward Tanor Ngom (Dakar, Senegal) is one of the top forwards in the country, and his presence alone makes him a threat. All in all, Ryerson has options up and down its lineup from anywhere on the floor and that will continue to force opposing teams to be on their toes at every turn.

Season Series | Ryerson had the Gee-Gees’ number during the regular season, cruising to a pair of double-digit wins to sweep Ottawa. The first meeting quickly turned into a laugher in the second half. Ryerson took a 17-point lead after the opening 20 minutes, which expanded to 30 points at the end of the third quarter and ended with an 89-58 final. In their second meeting, the Gee-Gees put forth a better showing, but still couldn’t reel in the Rams. Ryerson posted four players in double-figures in the 85-75 win, and it was their early 10-point cushion after the opening quarter that all but left the Gee-Gees in a hole from which they couldn’t recover.

January 6, 2019 | Ottawa 58 Ryerson 89
January 25, 2019 | Ryerson 85 Ottawa 75

 

No. 4 McMaster Marauders (11-13) v. No. 1 Laurier Golden Hawks (18-6)


Pre-Game | When the McMaster Marauders and Laurier Golden Hawks took to the court this season, home court advantage wasn’t a factor in their head-to-head encounters. The teams split their regular season series with each team picking up a win away from home. Come Saturday, the Golden Hawks will be looking to buck the trend as they host the Marauders in a postseason rematch from last season. Laurier knocked off the Marauders in the first round a year ago in convincing fashion, 102-76, and have their playoff lives banking on history repeating itself with a semifinal spot on the line.

Players to Watch | The Marauders were forced to sweat out their first-round win over the Guelph Gryphons down to the final buzzer. McMaster was able to hold off a late comeback from their opponents to pick up the 78-75 victory and punch their ticket to the quarterfinals. The Hamilton squad had six players turn in double-digit performances in the win; a balanced effort that got everyone involved. In 21 minutes off the bench, third-year forward Damiann Prehay (Brampton, Ont.) went for 13 points, on 6-of-11 shooting, and seven rebounds to play a big role in the win. In 14 regular season games, Prehay averaged 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game off the bench. Veterans David McCulloch (Hamilton, Ont.) and Connor Gilmore (Etobicoke, Ont.) can both impact the game on either end of the court and if the pair are able to replicate their performances against Guelph in their clash with Laurier, it would go a long way toward Mac finding success. First-year guard Jordan Henry (Pickering, Ont.) will also have his hands full with the back-court rotation for the Golden Hawks, but as the case has been over the course of the year, the freshman guard looks to be more than up to the task.

When one talks about the Golden Hawks, the conversation begins with second-year guard Ali Sow (Ottawa, Ont.). The two-time U SPORTS Athlete of the Month has torched the Marauders this season. In their two meetings, Sow has posted a combined 65 points on 24-of-49 shooting from the floor. In their second meeting, the sophomore dropped 36 points in the team’s 14-point win. Sow has been almost unstoppable all year, and his 636 regular season points set a new single-season scoring record in the OUA this season. While the conversation starts with Sow, it certainly doesn’t end there, as the likes of Matt Minutillo (Brantford, Ont.) and Ntore Habimana (Mississauga, Ont.) have come into their own as the season has progressed. The former has shown that he can lead the offence from the back-court on any given night, while the latter has become a strong two-way player for the purple and gold. Laurier also has the luxury of having a player like Kemel Archer (Brampton, Ont.) coming off the bench to add a spark at any moment, adding another element to the team’s vaunted attack on offence and defence.

Season Series | Laurier and McMaster met twice within a span of nine days to start the month of January, and the road team prevailed by double-digit margins in both contests. In the first game of the New Year for both teams, the Marauders held the Golden Hawks to just 33.8% shooting in their 79-67 victory. The next weekend saw the Golden Hawks flip the script on the Marauders, as Laurier held Mac to just 36.5% from the floor in their 87-73 victory; a win that would kick off an eight-game winning streak for the Golden Hawks at the time.

January 4, 2019 | McMaster 79 Laurier 67
January 12, 2019 | Laurier 87 McMaster 73

 

No. 3 Brock Badgers (16-8) v. No. 2 Western Mustangs (16-8)


Pre-Game | Saturday’s game in London will be one that many will want to keep an eye on inside Alumni Hall. Both the Brock Badgers and Western Mustangs finished the season with matching 16-8 records, but thanks to the Mustangs’ two wins over Brock during the regular season, the purple ponies earned an extra few days of rest with their second-place finish and corresponding first-round bye. Both teams have been ranked inside the U SPORTS Top-10 at various points this season, and while each side has seen some ups and downs throughout the year, the intrigue is definitely there in this evenly-matched contest that could very well go down to the wire.  

Players to Watch | For the third game in a row, the Badgers met the Lakehead Thunderwolves on Wednesday, only this time, the vibe was a little different. A spot in the quarterfinals was on the line and the Badgers were back on their home court after splitting their final two contests of the regular season in Thunder Bay. Brock picked up the win on Wednesday, 87-83, thanks in large part to the play of their two seniors. Johneil Simpson (Toronto, Ont.) and Cassidy Ryan (Mississauga, Ont.) led the way on both ends of the floor for the Badgers to keep their season alive for at least one more game. Ryan played all 40 minutes, and for his efforts, narrowly missed out on a double-double with 26 points and nine rebounds. As the regular season wore down, Simpson kept climbing up the ranks in terms of all-time leading scorers at Brock and his strong play continued into the postseason. He recorded 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting in the Badgers’ four-point win. Against a Western team that has had their number this season, Brock will lean heavily on their veterans as they look to keep their season alive and move one step further in their quest for the Wilson Cup.

In their two regular season meetings, guard Omar Shiddo (Toronto, Ont.) was a problem for the Badgers. The third-year guard scored a combined 57 points over the Mustangs’ two wins against Brock and he will look to maintain his threatening offensive status in their quarterfinal tilt. In Western’s overtime win on February 9th, Shiddo went for 33 points on the night, one of his four 30-point efforts on the year. Over his 24 regular season appearances, Shiddo ranked among the OUA’s with an average of 21.3 points per game and was instrumental in the team’s success. Another key factor, however, was the return of Marko Kovac (Windsor, Ont.) in the latter half of the year. Kovac averaged 13.3 points and 4.4 rebounds over his 14 appearances and adds yet another two-way weapon for the ‘Stangs. First-year forward Aaron Tennant (London, Ont.), meanwhile, had a three-game stretch late in the season wherein he recorded double-digit points in each game, which included a 13-point, 8-rebound effort against the Badgers. Tennant’s efforts have epitomized that playing the Badgers has brought out the best in the Mustangs this season, so they’ll be keen to keep up this pace and make it three straight wins over the St. Catharines squad once the dust settles on Saturday.

Season Series | Despite big second-half efforts from the Badgers in both of their regular season meetings, the Mustangs managed to notch a pair of wins over Brock to sweep their regular season series and give them the always important home-court advantage in the postseason. In their first encounter, the Mustangs weathered the late surge to come away with the 80-75 win, but in the second meeting, it wasn’t quite as cut and dry. The Badgers overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime, but ultimately, when all was said and done, the Mustangs found a way to come away with the victory in extra time, 96-91.

January 5, 2019 | Brock 75 Western 80
February 9, 2019 | Western 96 Brock 91 (OT)