Last year, the Gee-Gees men’s basketball team was undefeated against the Carleton Ravens in the regular season. Led by fifth-year point guard Mike L’Africain, Ottawa swept the Bytown Battle at Carleton, as well as the Capital Hoops Classic by 75-73 and 78-72 margins.
In the Wilson Cup semi-final, the teams’ third meeting did not go as well for the Gee-Gees, losing to their rivals 82-74 in Toronto. Carleton lost in the OUA finals, but went on to win another national title in March.
Ahead of the highly anticipated first matchup of the season at Montpetit Hall on Tuesday night, the teams are neck-and-neck once again.
Both teams are 9-0 through OUA league play, facing off against the same opponents, Carleton has held the U Sports no. 1 ranking since week one, whereas the Gee-Gees fittingly rose to the no. 2 ranking from no. 4 last week.
The Gee-Gees and Ravens both defeated fellow divisional opponents Laurentian and Nipissing last weekend, and the rare Tuesday night game provides less opportunity for the teams to prepare for the game.
Despite the weight of the game, the lack of specific preparation time doesn’t seem to phase the Gee-Gees too much, they know everything comes down putting it together on the floor.
“Everybody knows that these are the big games we look forward to,” said fifth-year star Caleb Agada. “I don’t think there’s anything extra we need to do. Everyone’s going to be ready and is itching to play Carleton and see where we rank.”
Agada is a force on both ends of the floor, but it may be his defence that has the most value in the battle. He will likely spend significant time covering Carleton scorer Connor Wood, who is averaging 22.8 points per game, ranking second in the nation.
Carleton’s second biggest weapon is point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane who is averaging 16.4 points and 6.4 assists per game. After scoring 18 points against Nipissing on Friday, Kajami-Keane only tallied 4 points against Laurentian in 14 minutes of play.
Although Carleton scores at a higher clip, the Gee-Gees give up the fewest points of any team in the nation. Ottawa has a more spread out offence than the Ravens, with four players averaging over 10 points per game, to Carleton’s three. Ravens forward Eddie Ekiyor is averaging 10.9 points, whereas Brody Maracle and Adam Presutti average 11.8 and 11.3 respectively.
Defensively, the key to victory for the Gee-Gees is shutting down one or more of the three top scoring Ravens. Carleton has only once been led in scoring by anyone other than their top three players; forcing secondary players to take over is essential.
The game will hold extra emotional weight for Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles, who will be facing off against his former team for the first time since joining the Gee-Gees.
Pierre-Charles and fellow former-Raven Brody Maracle could be the steering forces to a potential Ottawa victory. Pierre-Charles is averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds per game, more than any Ravens post player. Maracle is also putting up a solid 11.8 and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Tuesday’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 18-1, CAR 15-0
Points per game: OTT 83.0 (10th U Sports), CAR 92.4 (2nd U Sports)
Points allowed per game: OTT 60.2 (1st U Sports), CAR 63.8 (3rd U Sports)
Rebounding margin: OTT 5.8 (6th U Sports), CAR 13.9 (1st U Sports)
Field goal percentage: OTT 49.3 (2nd U Sports), CAR 50.2 (1st U Sports)
Field goal percentage against: OTT 36.7 (4th U Sports), CAR 38.9 (7th U Sports)
Offensive turnovers per game: OTT 11.3 (T-1st U Sports), CAR 11.3 (T-1st U Sports)