Fresh off the announcement of two new recruits for the second half – and likely just as importantly the dismissal of two other players – the UQAM Citadins charged out of the gate, grabbing a 21-6 early lead and were rarely threatened thereafter in a 70-44 win over Bishop’s in Montreal.
6’1″ Kewyn Blain is rapidly establishing himself as the top player in the RSEQ and, while his minutes were limited last night due to foul trouble, it is very clear that Citadins need to consistently play through their dynamic point guard to succeed. Blain scored the first 6 UQAM points before picking up his second foul with about 4 minutes left in the first quarter but stayed in the game until late in the first as one of UQAM’s important pick-ups, 5’11” Charles Miller knocked in a pair of 3’s and the route was on. Citadins did struggle in the second quarter, scoring only 6 points in the final 8 minutes of the first half – all with Blain (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists in just 21 minutes) on the bench – as UQAM went back to poor shot selection and questionable decision making without their best player of the floor.
UQAM was aided by a terrible Bishop’s start and generally cold shooting from a Gaiters squad that had not played for 5-6 weeks ? Bishop’s turned it over on their first 4 possessions of the game and only were able to stay in the game on the offensive glass, clearly an area of concern for UQAM going forward. Still, 7’0″ Yassin Debache had arguably a career-best game, protecting the rim inside – he was credited for 6 blocks but it felt like at least 10 or more – and only 4 rebounds. Debache finished well with both hands around the rim (13 points) and his play is easing the impact of the loss of 6’10” impact center Rudolphe Joly, who himself led the RSEQ in blocks in the first half but was dismissed, along with forward Jude Molin, from the team for “not meeting expectations for being members of our team” as Coach Nate Philippe described.
Given numerous second chances on the “o” glass, Gaiters squandered lay-up opportunities and when fouled were wretched from the foul line, going only 5 for 15 in the first half when made free throws could have kept them in the game. Still, with Blain on the bench, Gaiters had their chances, cutting leads to as close as 8 I believe. But Blain took over when necessary, cutting to the rim, knocking down perimeter “j’s” and reading the ball screen very well each time, finding teammates inside and outside for open looks as the help permitted.
Bishop’s star guard Jon Bermillo had one of his poorer shooting efforts of the past couple of seasons, going just 3 for 18 and 1 for 7 for downtown. Gaiters looked to feature 6’6″ freshman Nick Harvey all evening against a number of what they felt were favorable matchups. While the freshman plays very hard, gets to the offensive glass to rebound and has some offensive tools, the isolations failed miserably last night as Harvey missed several reasonably open shots (2 for 11 from the field) and simply does not yet have the offensive skill set to consistently get to the rim, let alone put the fear in the opposition’s mind of creating a double team/early help defender. Gaiters did get a consistent effort and nice output from another freshman Abdul Kamane (18 points, 10 rebounds), an undersized 4 who really knows how to use his body inside and is a slashing wing forward who can get to the rim. He got most of his last night without being generally featured in the offense.
Bishop’s was short-handed last night as 6’3″ Peter Weston, their zone-stretching sharpshooter and one of the Q’s top perimeter scorers, did not play and Gaiters lost their 6’5″ forward David Belanger in the first 2 minutes of the game as he appeared to jam his hand or finger(s) battlinig for a rebound and quickly removed himself from the game to seek aid for what appeared to be a painful injury. He did not return to the game.
Gaiters did also add one more piece to their team giving 10 minutes to 5’11” Luay Abow, a diminutive guard who, in his first RSEQ regular season action of his career, did not hurt his team while on the floor last night and could be a decent addition to the Bishop’s lineup if his play last night was any indicator.
The teams meet again Saturday night in Lennoxville. Box Score
In the other game in the RSEQ, Laval came back from a second half deficit to defeat the reeling Concordia Stingers 68-60 at the Bee Hive in Montreal. Teams meet again this evening at Laval.