Ottawa, Ont – For the second straight game it was lights out for the Ottawa Gee-Gees who once again torched a NCAA division opponent with their three-point shooting earning them a well deserved 73-66 win over the visiting Vermont Catamounts of the American East Conference.
A day after shocking the Indiana Hoosiers by knocking down 18-0f-30 three-pointers for a 109-101 victory to kick off the 2014-15 schedule, the Gee-Gees were back it again, this time on their home floor of Montepetit Hall. Ottawa continued their three-point barrage making 12-out-37 shots from downtown (32.4%) to improve to 2-0 in the young season. The victory marks the first time University of Ottawa has beaten NCAA division teams on back-to-back occasions.
Fifth-year senior guard and 2013-14 CIS second-team All-Canadian Johnny Berhanemeskel continue his big game tradition against and NCAA teams with 26 points and four rebounds including 5-for-9 from deep. The sharpshooting guard scored 10 first-quarter points on 4-of-4 shooting to give the Gee-Gees a 23-18 lead after the first-quarter. Vermont used their superior height advantage and pulled down 10 first-half offensive rebounds to stay in the game, despite the Gee-Gees six first-half long range bombs, giving Ottawa a seven-point lead (40-33) at half-time.
The Catamounts continued to chip at the Gee-Gees lead in the third-quarter as Canadian freshman point guard Trae Bell-Haynes (Unionville, Ontario), (7 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds) and Drew Urquhart (Vancouver, BC) ) (4 points, 2 rebounds) made their presence felt in a physical quarter that end of the Gee-Gees holding a slim 54-50. The fourth and final quarter belong to Berhanemeskel who poured in 14-points in the fourth quarter to give the Ottawa their second-straight victory. Mike L’African struggled with his outside shot (1-6) and finished with 11 points, five assists and four rebounds and was the only other Gee-Gee in double figures.
“We were able to make three’s tonight, we didn’t shot it well, but they shot poorly, 2-for-18, the three-point shot was definitely the difference in the game, rebounds are even, free-throws were pretty close. Johnny hit some big ones for us in the fourth quarter tonight to help us out but it wasn’t pretty tonight” lamented Ottawa Gee-Gees fourth-year head coach James Derouin.
“We are fourth and fifth year guys we’ve had back-to-back medals at nationals, played big games in the final four in back-to-back years, this is the third year for these guys, they are veterans, they don’t get phased” added Derouin when asked to describe the maturity of composure of his team early on in the preseason.
Ottawa’s record versus NCAA division teams improves to 5-25 with the back-to-back victories over Indiana and Vermont. Their five wins ranks third amongst Canadian universities with Carleton Ravens with 16 wins and the UBC Thunderbirds at seven wins. Despite the historic lopsided results Derouin sees the positives in these games and hopes that more media attention is given to Canadian university basketball.
“To tell you the truth, when I first started I didn’t like these games I felt like they were early, I felt like we didn’t have anything to gain, we were so young and inexperienced we just come in take a beating and leave, and what was the point. But as we started to improve every year I started to get more and more excited about the games and started to understand how valuable th
ey are to exposing your weaknesses and that’s why I look forward to these games now.
“It sort of a family thing when it comes to CIS we are all pulling for each other, there is not a guy on my roster that was offered a scholarship by anybody so for us and these kids to pull back-to-back wins against teams that didn’t offer any of these guys I mean it’s great for them. You get a change to show these guys, Vermont didn’t offer a single one of these guys, We know Indiana didn’t which is fine that is a big program.
“To get a win over Indiana is something that these guys will tell their grand-kids about and that is really special, I hope that it continues to draw attention to just how good the basketball is up here and we should get not only media coverage, but television coverage this a really good product. We show NCAA games ahead before we show CIS games on TV. TSN has got five channels, Sportsnet has six channels and here we are beating NCAA teams. I like to see that being recognized. The win yesterday got North American attention, you Americans tweeting about it, got Canadians talking about it and even Americans that didn’t know we had a league up here, all of a sudden then know.”
“Hopefully people appreciate the product and how hard these kids work. Talk about kids that are full rides in the States, these kids pay tuition, these kids are training all summer long, these guys aren’t on full rides, that should be appreciated a little more” and win does that”
The Gee-Gees (2-0) will look to keep things rolling when it tries for three-straight victories over a NCAA opponent. Up next Ottawa will take on Illinois-Chigaco Flames on Wednesday August 13 at Monpetit Hall.
The Gee-Gees played without starting forward Gabe Gonthier-Dube and transfer Alex Ratte (Laurentian).
Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
It’s around 8:30 p.m. on a frigid Wednesday in the dead of winter, and Omar Shiddo is having one of his worst games of the season.
The fourth-year Western Mustangs guard, who has drawn comparisons to Damian Lillard for his clutch shooting, has just five points in the first half of a tight game against the Guelph Gryphons.
In the second half his game marginally improves, but there are a series of missteps — layups that don’t go down, jump shots that rim out and an occasional lack of motion without the ball.
Shiddo also gets hit with a technical foul after a physical bucket he felt should have resulted in an and-one, clapping back at two Guelph players who allegedly chirped at him during the play.
This is a far cry from the kinds of performance Shiddo is known for, and light years away from the 35-point outburst he had four days earlier in an 84-79 win over rival McMaster.
It doesn’t matter — not even remotely.
Western clamps down on defence in the second half and several teammates make big shots. Shiddo helps neutralize Guelph guard Malcolm Glanville, who had 11 first-half points and showed signs of catching fire.
Shiddo finishes with 12 points on 4-15 shooting, his second-lowest total of the year. Five other Mustang players players score in double-digits, including 27 points from sharp-shooting guard Eriq Jenkins.
Western pulls away and cruises to a 94-73 victory that’s as ugly as it is decisive.
“That’s a win, boys!” someone shouts emphatically as the team gathers for a post-game huddle in the cavernous, mostly-empty Alumni Hall in London, Ont. — Western’s home court.
“Guys on my team stepped up,” said Shiddo minutes later in an interview, his soft-spoken analysis tumbling out as quickly as he jukes opponents, like water over Niagara Falls.
“The second half was more of other guys doing their thing and me not having to do as much scoring, which I love to do. It’s all about team … we got a big win.”
Shiddo is unquestionably a leader — and on most nights, the most effective offensive weapon — on a Western team loaded with potential.
In his tenure, the Mustangs have been as good as they have been in a decade, with a legitimate chance to challenge for a berth in the U Sports Final 8 — Canada’s version of March Madness — in Ottawa.
“That’s our goal from the beginning of the year — trying to get to nationals,” said Shiddo, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., a hotbed that has produced several NBA players, including Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett.
“We think we’re a top-five team in the country,” said Shiddo. “We’ve just need to continue to play like it.”
Western is ranked outside the Top 10 nationally, but has the second-best record in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), four points behind the Carleton Ravens.
They’re also first in the OUA West division, with a roster that skews relatively young: Seven of the 12 players are freshmen or sophomores.
Nikola Farkic, a 6-foot point guard from Waterloo, is team captain and Jenkins (Windsor, Ont.) is arguably its most reliable three-point threat. Veteran forward Julian Walker (Barrie, Ont.) anchors a front court with considerable promise, thanks in large part to lean, athletic second-year players Aaron Tennant (London, Ont.) and Ukasha Khan (Brampton, Ont.).
“A lot of stuff goes unnoticed on the stat sheet,” said Shiddo. “But we’ve got a full team and we’re 10 deep. Everybody plays their role. We’re not a team where it’s one guy.”
He’s right. This win over Guelph is proof enough of that. And yet in crunch time, Shiddo has a penchant for taking over games, Lillard-style, and making big shots.
It has become part of Western lore.
When Lillard puts a team on his back and wills it to victory in the fourth quarter, fans and media call it Dame Time. When Shiddo does this, it’s #Omellytime.
Shiddo showed hints of his #Omelly mentality early against Guelph. After Western fell behind 10-2 in the first quarter, his demeanor shifted from deferential to aggressive, pushing the ball up the floor and calmly making a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to six.
Minutes later, he drilled a three-pointer to make it 12-7, and attacked the basket for a layup that lingered on the rim but didn’t fall. His teammates took their cue and soon Western had its first lead of the game.
At the end of the first quarter the score was 28-28. At halftime Western led 47-46, and they never looked back.
“I’m not the rah rah type of — football type of leader,” said Shiddo. “I try to lead by example.
“Say what has to be said, and other than that just lead by example. It’s not how much you say, it’s about what you say.”
In U Sports, most teams are at the mercy of a Carleton dynasty that has won 14 of the last 17 national championships.
Western is a long shot to come anywhere near the title game this season, and Carleton is favoured to win it. When the teams meet for a regular-season tilt at Alumni Hall on Jan. 31, it will likely be for the last time.
Shiddo is nobody’s fool. He knows the odds are stacked against his team, even if he’s at his best and #Omellytime is in full effect.
His confidence is tempered with realism, but it’s still there.
“Against a team like that we’re not going to be up by one at half — we’ll probably be down by 20,” he said. “We have to play our perfect game.”
They will almost certainly not be perfect. They will almost certainly lose. And yet Omar Shiddo, the soft-spoken assassin, has a question for you.
“Why not shock the country,” he said, “and beat the No. 1 team?”
Kadre Gray wins second consecutive U Sports MVP
Laurentian guard Kadre Gray took his game to another level this season.
That’s saying something.
A year ago, Gray was the top Canadian university male athlete in any sport, the first Laurentian student to win the honour.
He led the country in assists, narrowly missed a scoring title, and — perhaps by default — also won the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as men’s basketball player of the year.
“Kadre’s work ethic continues to shine bright,” said Laurentian head coach Shawn Swords in a statement.
“He is always looking for ways to improve and refine all aspects of the game.”
If there was any doubt, Gray stifled it in his junior season.
He averaged 31 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game en route to his second consecutive Moser trophy.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment to do it once,” said Swords.
“And now, to be named MVP twice, is truly a testament to his willingness to learn and improve.
“The Kadre effect has spread throughout our community as well. It is great to see him support our local youth and realize the positive impact he has on everyone.”
Gray received the 2019 Moser trophy Thursday at a gala in Halifax, N.S., ahead of the U Sports Men’s Final 8 tournament.
University of Calgary guard Mambi Diawara, Concordia guard Ricardo Monge and St. Mary’s University guard Kemar Alleyne were also finalists for the award.
Gray was simply a cut above. He posted gaudy stats with notable efficiency, shooting 48.8 per cent from the floor.
He was also a First Team All-Canadian and played with Canada’s national team in FIBA World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers against Venezuela and Brazil.
Gray was the only U Sports player to participate in the qualifiers.
Other award winners:
Rookie of the Year (Dr. Peter Mullins Trophy): Alix Lochard, UQAM.
Ken Shields Award for Student-Athlete Community Service: Tanner Graham, Queen’s.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Anderson, Carleton.
Stuart W. Aberdeen Memorial Trophy (Coach of the Year): Dan Vanhooren, Calgary.