BURLINGTON, Ont. – The No. 10 nationally ranked Queen's Gaels (9-1) women's basketball team travel to the nation's capital on Friday night for a showdown with the No. 9 Ottawa Gee-Gees (9-1). With both teams currently sitting atop their respective divisions, the game could have major implications in the race for home court advantage throughout the playoffs and hosting the Critelli Cup.
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00pm at Montpetit Hall on the campus of the University of Ottawa.
Ottawa rattled off six consecutive wins to open the season before running into a resilient Mustangs team on the tail end of back-to-back games with Western and the defending champion Windsor Lancers. Since that 75-66 loss at home, the Gee-Gees have won three straight, including a big 76-73 overtime win on the road last Saturday against the No. 5 ranked Ryerson Rams.
The season has followed a similar script for the Gaels as they won five straight before losing to the upstart Brock Badgers 69-50 at home. Queen's enters Friday's game having won five straight including an 80-74 two weeks ago against the Rams. Success for the Gaels in that game was their ability to distribute the ball as five players scored in double digits, led by 2014-15 OUA first-team all-star Jenny Wright (Kingston, Ont.) who had a team high 20 points.
Knocking off the Rams at the Mattamy Athletic Centre Coca Cola Court was likely bittersweet as it was Ryerson who brought an end to the Gaels' season last year, defeating Queen's 69-60 in the semifinals.
This will be the first meeting between the Gaels and Gee-Gees since their Valentine's Day showdown in Kingston, Ont. a year ago. There was no love lost in that meeting as Ottawa upset Queen's at home 60-51. In that game, former Gee-Gees standout Stephanie MacDonald had a game high 21 points, while Abby Dixon (North Vancouver, B.C.) tied for the team high with 11 points in the loss.
Friday's game will feature two of the stingiest defences in the conference as Ottawa (57.1) and Queen's (57.4) rank first and third, respectively, in points per game allowed. Through 10 games this season, Ottawa has held opponents to a 33.5 field goal percentage, the second best mark in OUA, while Queen's sits one spot back at a paltry 34.2 percent.
Both teams take excellent care of the ball with Queen's (15.9) and Ottawa (16.2) ranking second and third, respectively, in turnovers per game. However, the Gee-Gees sits second in the conference averaging 21.1 turnovers per game defensively, compared to 18.9 by Queen's.
The Gaels have dominated the boards this season and this is an area that could have a major impact on the outcome Friday night. Queen's ranks third in OUA averaging 45.3 rebounds per game, compared to the 39.3 rebounds hauled in by the Gee-Gees, which places them tenth.
If Ottawa wants to hang with Queen's, they'll need to find a solution on the glass to handle the Gaels' Robyn Pearson (Toronto, Ont.). Pearson, a 6-foot-0 power forward, is averaging 12.0 rebounds per game to lead OUA and CIS. In the Gaels' 57-33 victory on Jan. 15 against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, the second-year commerce student-athlete had a season high 20 rebounds.
But it could be a long evening for the Gaels if the high powered Gee-Gees get into a rhythm early from behind the arc. Ottawa leads OUA with a 33.5 three point percentage and ranks in the top five in the conference in three pointers made (6.9) and attempts (20.6) per game.
The Gee-Gees aerial attack begins with Julia Soriano (Toronto, Ont.) who sits third in the conference with a 49.1 three point percentage. On the other side of the ball, as a team, the Gaels have struggled shooting the three this season and sit fourteenth in the OUA at 25.3 percent.
In her fifth and final season in tricolor, veteran Jenny Wright appears to have her hometown Gaels poised to make a deep championship run when the calendar turns to March. The nursing science student-athlete is inside the top 15 scorers in the league, averaging 13.5 points per game this season. Queen's has leaned heavily on the two-time all-star as Wright is averaging 32.5 minutes per game, the second highest mark in OUA.
Ottawa will also have to keep a close eye on Abby Dixon, as the shifty 5-foot-10 guard, sits tenth in the conference in both steals (21) and assists (29) and second on the Gaels at 10.4 points per game. The North Vancouver, B.C. native terrorized the Blues earlier this season when she has six assists, five steals and 13 points and if the Gee-Gees aren't careful she could have them chasing their tails come Friday night.
The Gee-Gees offence runs through guard Kellie Ring (Ottawa, Ont.) who ranks sixth in OUA with 3.6 assists per game, just 0.1 percent behind her counterpart on Friday, Gaels guard Emily Hazlett (Fredericton, N.B.). For Ottawa, Ring is much more than just your typical pass first guard. In eight games this season for the Gee-Gees, the fourth-year communications major is averaging a team high 6.4 rebounds per game and is Ottawa's third highest scorer at 11.4 points per game.
In seven games this season, Catherine Traer (Chelsea, Que.), a third-year political science major leads the Gee-Gees, averaging 17.9 points per game, which ranks her fourth in the conference. However, Ottawa might be without the services of the 6-foot-1 guard on Friday night as she has been inactive the past three games.
If you can't make it to Montpetit Hall for the game, catch all the action Friday evening streaming live on OUA.tv beginning at 6:00 p.m.