In what was a somewhat-sloppy game indicative of the long lay-offs both teams were coming back off of, Saint Mary’s jumped out to an early 15+ point lead and withstood a couple of UQAM runs but ultimately won very comfortably 85-63.
Saint Mary’s did show a renewed effort at guarding the ball which made life difficult for UQAM when game was played in the half court; very early, the Citadins aided the Huskies by trying to break down their opponents off the dribble usually to no avail. Also, generally speaking the game lacked structure and many tough shots went up allowing teams to battle on the “o” glass (47 combined offensive rebounds for the game).
Huskies 6’7″ center Osman Barrie (19 points, 11 rebounds) did most of his damage in the first half (12 points) scoring inside with putbacks and stepping out for the odd perimeter jumper. Marquis Clayton remains Saint Mary’s spark-plug, attacking the rim in transition and guarding the ball. He had 23 points and 9 rebounds, getting to the line 11 times. SMU Coach Jonah Taussig was able to manage minutes effectively today in advance of 2 more games in the tournament as 11 different Huskies played.
A string of early missed lay-ups seemed to set the tone for UQAM which shot just 33% from the field and 4 for 12 from the free throw line. Star guard Kewyn Blain went just 5 for 13 for 11 points.
Citadins did welcome one new face, 6’0″ guard Charles Miller who has joined the team after the Holidays and his smooth stroke helped get UQAM back in the game in the second quarter after a rough start. Miller was able to get free in transition for a series of catch-and-shoot 3’s before the Huskies could convert defensively and Miller gives UQAM a unique weapon for a team that struggles in general from the perimeter. Miller finished with a team-high 14 points on 4-9 from 3 off the bench – the rest of the Citadins went a collective 3 of 15 from downtown including usual starter Greishe Clerjuste who went 2-10, 0-6 finishing with just 5 points.
Head Coach Nate Phillippe elected to start a bigger lineup including little-used 6’8″ lefty Simon Lavoie-Lavallee who made a couple of perimeter shots and 7’0″ Yassin Debache, who has the potential to be a rim protector/rebounder but struggles finishing (1-10 for 2 pts. in 24 minutes).
All in all, a sloppy start to the tournament, the main takeaways being what looked like renewed commitment by SMU to the defensive end and the impact of UQAM newcomer Miller as a legit perimeter threat.