The third-seeded McGill Redmen put on a defensive clinic to take down the high-scoring UNB Varsity Reds 88-57 in the opening game of the U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Final 8 tournament.
The RSEQ champions boasted a balanced attack with five players scoring in double figures. Dele Ogundokun had a team-high 17 points, while teammates Sebastian Beckett (13), Alex Paquin (12), Jenning Leung (12) and reserve Noah Daoust (11) each recorded double-digit figures.
“It doesn’t matter who scores, as long as we score,” said Redmen head coach David DeAveiro. “It’s much harder to guard a team that’s got more than one or two weapons when you’ve got five to 10. That’s something we’ve been preaching all year.”
But it was on the defensive end where they made the greatest impact. McGill, who came into the tournament with the nation’s second-best defence, did it again Thursday afternoon. They held the second-best offence to just 57 points on just 31.3 per cent shooting, while forcing 22 turnovers.
Leung opened the scoring with a corner triple as the Redmen began the game on a 6-0 run. McGill deployed a full-court press early and often and it was effective. The press limited the touches of the U SPORTS all-time scorer, Javon Masters, and forced him into three first-quarter turnovers.
“All season long we pressured teams and we thought that might not be a good idea with Masters because he’s so good with the ball,” said DeAveiro. “But we decided to stick with our identity on defence and try to wear him down. Then in the half court, we wanted him to see as many McGill bodies as possible every time he touched the ball.”
After burning a timeout, the Varsity Reds reeled off seven-straight points to pull ahead. However, Sam Jenkins and Ogundokun responded with back-to-back threes to give McGill a 13-9 lead. UNB ended the quarter on a 7-3 run thanks to five points by Jesse Kendall to tie it up at 16 apiece after one.
“We started out flat, but we got into a little bit of a flow,” said Masters, who recorded a game-high 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting. “Their (McGill) pressure really got into us. We made that an emphasis in our game plan to try and neutralize their pressure and we didn’t do a really good job of it.”
The Redmen used an 11-1 run to pull away 27-17 in the early moments of the second. Frustration started to set in on the UNB bench, as head coach Brent Baker was called for a technical foul for complaining to the referees about calls. The technical did little to inspire his team, as McGill shot a blistering 57.1 per cent in the quarter and took command with a 45-30 lead at halftime.
“We’ve been here many times. We have a veteran group and each year we’ve gotten better at nationals due to our experience,” Ogundokun said. “This year with all of the experience, I think we’re over the hump now and it’s time to break new barriers.”
The experienced McGill squad didn’t let up and steadily increased their lead to 66-42 after three and opened up over a 30-point advantage minutes into the fourth, carrying them to a lopsided 88-57 win.
The Redmen will take on the winner of the Calgary Dinos vs. Brock Badgers quarter-final match in Saturday’s semifinal at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT, while UNB faces the losing team that morning in the consolation semifinal at 10 a.m. ET / 7 a.m. PT.
Players of the Game
- McGill: Dele Ogundokun
- UNB: Javon Masters