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Uottawa

MBNA Capital Hoops Classic Preview: A New Classic Challenge

Thursday February 4, 2016
Photo: 
Richard A. Whittaker

The Gee-Gees men’s basketball team (11-1) will take to the court at Canadian Tire Centre on Friday for the tenth anniversary edition of the MBNA Capital Hoops Classic. The Garnet and Grey earned a victory in the first meeting of the season with the Carleton Ravens (10-2), and are now looking to deliver their first win at the Classic since that first event back in 2007.

Last-minute tickets are available on CapitalTickets.ca, while student sections are expected to be sold out on Thursday. A CIS record crowd of 10,780 took in last year’s Classic which saw the Gee-Gees stage a thrilling third quarter before going cold in the fourth, ultimately falling 79-66.

The early foul trouble of Caleb Agada made for a tricky start to the 2015 contest for Ottawa and the big question heading into Friday will be the health of the fourth-year all-star. After amassing 23 points and 10 rebounds at the Ravens Nest on January 16, Agada was helped off the court in obvious pain due to a rolled ankle. He has sat out the last four games.

A crucial stat to keep an eye on will be the rebounding totals; the Gee-Gees won the boards 43-32 with big contributions from Matt Plunkett and Nathan McCarthy in the round one victory.

“When you play at Capital Hoops there is so much adrenaline in your body from being in that atmosphere,” says Plunkett. “So when you get into a physical game you have to control yourself. We’re working on being physical with each other in practice. We have to block out the outside noise and play in the same square we were at Carleton.”

“Even though I’m not the biggest guy or the best at it, I put it on myself to lead by example and get in there for some rebounds because coach has made that a focus,” says Mike L’Africain.

Ottawa will be looking to L’Africain to continue his recent scoring; the fifth-year point guard notched 30 and 31 points last weekend and contributed 17 to the win on January 16. Notably, the majority of those points came from inside the three-point line.

“I’m feeling good, I’m feeling comfortable. I want to keep playing hard and building on those games. You don’t have to force anything against Carleton – you just have to be smart and play the right way,” explains L’Africain.

Carleton, ranked no. 3, is also coming into the game with something to prove. While Ottawa was tied with Ryerson heading into the final minute two weeks ago, the Ravens lagged behind the Rams throughout their matchup, losing 79-61.

The x-factors for Ottawa will be second-years Mackenzie Morrison and Brandon Robinson. “They’ve played at Indiana and they’ve played in some big games recently. We’ll throw them into the fire a little bit at Capital Hoops and see what happens – they both have the skills to make an impact,” says head coach James Derouin. “Every Capital Hoops game is a new challenge and we’ve seen some of the best players in the country struggle there while others step up. At the very least I hope that the experience allows them to contribute down the road.”

Friday’s MBNA Capital Hoops Classic will also be a Student-Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) “Mental Health Matchup.” These are varsity or club events held across the country that work to raise awareness of mental health and illness in sport, while connecting student-athletes with locally available mental health resources.

The game will be broadcast live on TSN1200, Rogers Cable 22, and OUA.tv. Tip-off is set for 8:07 p.m. on Friday.