Another big game from fifth-year point guard Mike L’Africain carried the no. 2 ranked Gee-Gees men’s basketball team to a hard-fought 89-82 win over the no. 5 Brock Badgers on Saturday night. The Oakville, Ont., native tied his career high with 33 points, 17 of which came from the free throw line in a physically taxing effort.
L’Africain scored 11 of Ottawa’s first 17 points while Brock led 20-17 at the end of the first quarter. His counterpart, Tyler Brown hit some early uncontested threes to lift the Brock offence, and his stingy defence highlighted the scrappy play of the Badgers under their own net. Brown finished the night with 28 points – a season high for the first-year guard.
With Ottawa leading by three at halftime, the third quarter saw the teams exchange mini-runs before eventually the pace slowed right down as players for both teams went one after another to the free throw line. Brock closed the gap to one at 54-53 during that stretch. For the remainder of the game, however, Ottawa was the team on the line, going 31-37 on free throw opportunities.
Three-pointers from Matt Plunkett early in the fourth stanza established a 71-58 Ottawa lead, seemingly burying the Badgers for good. However, Johneil Simpson was clutch throughout the game for Brock, responding after big runs from the Gee-Gees and he connected with another bucket to keep the tension level high. Simpson totalled 21 points and 10 rebounds to keep the Badgers within striking distance.
“We looked a little bit worn down,” commented Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin after the game. "We had our moments and in spurts we looked very good. But we constantly made mental mistakes which meant we couldn’t pull away. That was the frustrating part – we fell back into some bad habits which was uncharacteristic for our group.”
Vikas Gill came through with a big three late, followed by another from Plunkett with free throws by L’Africain and a dunk from Nathan McCarthy in-between to fend off the final Badgers push.
Plunkett sank 5-of-9 from long distance to tally 17 points, adding six rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Nathan McCarthy counted 14 points and two blocks.
“We just had two tough games against two tough opponents which we anticipated coming in. Heading home and into the reading week we can recharge a little bit and fix those mental errors,” added Derouin.
With four regular season games remaining, uOttawa heads home for a weekend series with the Waterloo Warriors (1-16) and the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (7-10) on February 19 and 20.