The first meeting of the season between the Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Carleton Ravens men’s basketball teams will take place this Saturday, January 16 at Carleton. Both teams have had a bye week in the schedule which has narrowed the focus even further on the biggest rivalry in CIS basketball.
Ottawa lost its five-week hold on the no. 1 spot in the CIS Top Ten poll this week, seeing the mantle slide back to Carleton. However, many agree that the rankings are not helpful towards predicting what will happen when the two teams finally meet after romping through the OUA schedule thus far. Both teams are 7-0 and have won the 14 games by an average of 30 points.
Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin is also curious and says the teams will be largely feeling each other out after many changes to both lineups. “Probably more than other years I am looking at this as round one,” says the coach. “I don’t know this [Carleton] team as well as I did the teams that were loaded with fifth-years. I’ve never seen a lot of these guys in the roles they are in, and I think they are in the same situation looking at us.”
“The first game last year, they had everyone back, we had everyone back and it wasn’t a feeling out… it was let’s go,” says Derouin with a competitive laugh. “It’s different this year – there’s a lot of different pieces.”
The Gee-Gees counted the first win over Carleton last season before falling short in the two follow-up games including the national championship final. Team dynamics have shifted at Montpetit Hall though, with greater focus on defence and rebounding as well as a post presence deeper than recent seasons.
One of the big changes for Ottawa has been Nathan McCarthy, who will suit up against Carleton for the first time since transferring from McMaster. The 6-foot-8 native of Burlington, Ont., acknowledges the increased tension saying, “It’s a different rivalry here. We still prepared as well as you could, but it’s a bigger rivalry here for sure.”
McCarthy has brought 8.6 points per game on 54 per cent shooting, showing off his smooth jumper as well as collecting points down low. His 6.1 rebounds per game is second on the team. “Coach did a really good job of bringing me on slow and it took me a while to get comfortable but I know my role now,” explains McCarthy. “Mike and Caleb are going to handle most of the scoring and I just need to rebound and play good defence.”
Meanwhile, the new factors on the Ravens come in the form of Kaza Kajami-Keane in the guard spot and extended minutes from seven-footer Cameron Smythe. Smythe played just three minutes against Ottawa last season while Keane has transferred from the NCAA’s Cleveland State and is averaging 15.7 points per game to lead Carleton. Established nemeses Connor Wood and Gavin Resch remain threats from beyond the arc and bring the defensive pressure Ottawa is accustomed to seeing from the Ravens.
“For both programs there is a lot of development for the role players. Each year all of a sudden someone pops out off the bench and they’re playing great,” says Derouin. “[Smythe] is a dangerous player and he plays very well off Guillaume Boucard, who is also in a new role.”
McCarthy simplifies Ottawa’s approach to the highly anticipated game. “We have to play every possession. We can’t get too high on ourselves or too low on ourselves when the runs happen.”
Saturday’s game will be broadcast live in the Ottawa area by Rogers Cable 22 as well as the OUA.tv webcast. Game time is 8 p.m.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Overall record: OTT 17-2, CAR 12-1
Points per game: OTT 87.7 (4th CIS), CAR 89.7 (2nd CIS)
Points allowed per game: OTT 57.9 (2nd CIS), CAR 55.1 (1st CIS)
Rebounding margin: OTT 13.9 (2nd CIS), CAR 21.1 (1st CIS)
Field goal percentage: OTT 48.8 (2nd CIS), CAR 51.4 (1st CIS)
3-pt percentage: OTT 40.1 (3rd CIS), CAR 40.3 (2nd CIS)
Steals per game: OTT 9.4 (9th CIS), CAR 7.7 (22nd CIS)
Blocks per game: OTT 5.3 (3rd CIS), CAR 4.4 (6th CIS)