Wesmen in tough against Gee-Gees
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The Winnipeg Wesmen played and lost to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the final of the Wesmen Classic university men’s basektball tournament Dec. 30.
Ten weeks later, the teams meet again in the U Sports national championship quarter-finals at noon Friday in Halifax — but the ramifications are much bigger.
A trip to the Canadian semifinals is at stake.
“We played them some time ago and I think over the course of this season, teams evolve and change and find different things that they’re comfortable doing,” said Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault earlier this week. “So, we have some familiarity, which is good, and we have a chance to sort of look back at some of the things that worked or didn’t work.”
A pair of fourth-year players played big roles in No. 2-ranked Ottawa’s 70-61 win in December.
Guard Kevin Otoo poured in 18 points, including a 4-for-8 performance from three-point range for the Ontario champions, while forward Guillaume Pepin added 17 points, including three three-pointers in five tries.
The Gee-Gees finished the game at 10-for-28 (35.7 per cent) from beyond the arc. Winnipeg managed only a 4-for-18 night, with a trio of threes coming from rookie guard Alberto Gordo.
“I mean, that’s a team that’s really disciplined,” said Wesmen guard Emmanuel Thomas, who had a quiet four-point output against the Gee-Gees. “They run their offence almost perfectly. So, for us, it’s more about correcting the mistakes that we made the first game and try to apply that to our first-round matchup.”
Not surprisingly, the Wesmen are carefully plotting their defensive tactics.
“They’re a really great pick-and-roll team, right?” said Thomas. “They’re really good at moving the ball, so rotations would probably be a good thing to focus on.”
Raimbault hinted he might consider pressuring the Gee-Gees.
“We’ve got to take a look and say, ‘What are the spots on the floor where we can be a little bit more active and a little bit more effective in shrinking the court,’” said Raimbault. “I think, having played them previously, and knowing their ability to move the ball and pass the ball and find one another gives us maybe an even greater sense of urgency for those details.”
Hildebrandt honoured: First-year Manitoba forward Simon Hildebrandt capped a spectacular debut season Thursday night when he was named to the U Sports men’s basketball rookie of the year while also being named to the all-rookie team.
The 20-year-old Winnipeg product averaged 17.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists for the Bisons. Earlier, he was chosen a Canada West first-team all-star, conference rookie of the year and a member of the all-rookie team.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.