Written by Taylor Prichard, Sports Information
Photo by Rich Lam
(VANCOUVER, BC) — The Carleton Ravens men’s basketball team is heading back to the CIS Final 8 championship game for the sixth consecutive season following a 76-66 win over the Dalhousie Tigers in the national semi-final at UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
In a game that featured little flare or flash, Carleton did just enough to grind out a scrappy win over the AUS champion Tigers, who showed tremendous resiliency in the battle with the Ravens.
“We got away from our fundamentals, and we certainly lost our focus in the first half,” explained fifth-year forward Guillaume Payen Boucard (Montreal, QC), who finished the game with 13 points and tied for a team-high with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. “We had to be more energized and talk more on defence and in transition to get our rhythm back.”
Carleton established the early first-quarter lead thanks to 6 points from forward Ryan Ejim (Toronto, ON), who found some easy looks in the paint. The Ravens’ stifling defence shut down the Tigers for the majority of the opening ten minutes, limiting Dal to only 8 points on 3-for-16 shooting. With Carleton struggling to find its own scoring touch, the Ravens would hold a slender 14-8 advantage after one.
Early in the second, Connor Wood (Guelph, ON) buried a three-pointer to put the Ravens up 19-8 at the 8:01 mark. However, Carleton would struggle from beyond the arc in the first half, only connecting on three triples (3-13 3-PT FG) through two. Carleton fell victim to a stubborn Dalhousie defence in late stages of the second quarter that narrowed its lead. With the Tigers finding success on one end of the floor, they began to mount a comeback to cut Carleton’s halftime lead to 24-23.
Carleton’s 24 points in the first half marked its lowest halftime output of the 2015-16 season. The Tigers held Carleton to just 10 points in the second quarter.
With a sluggish first half behind it, Carleton began the second with a bang, as the Ravens built up a ten-point lead, 46-36, following a steal and layup from fourth-year guard Kaza Kajami-Keane (Ajax, ON). The Ravens continued to break through the Tigers’ defence in the third, scoring 30 points to take a 54-46 upper hand into the final frame. Dalhousie’s offence started to find its stroke in the third as well, scoring 23 points in quarter three, capped by six late free throws from Cedric Sanogo.
With Carleton ahead, the Tigers deployed a high-pressure defence which led to some problems for the Ravens. Carleton would turn the ball over on numerous possessions in the fourth, but they would eventually settle down and make a few adjustments to close out the game. The Ravens found some daylight to pull ahead 66-48 midway through the frame. However, Dalhousie refused to give up on its dream of a championship game appearance. The back-to-back AUS conference winners would go on an 8-0 run to trim the deficit to 66-56.
With some added pressure put on by Dal, the Ravens remained focused and would come up with several defensive stops to keep the Tigers at bay. A Ryan Ejim slam dunk finish in transition made it 74-59 for Carleton, and despite another late run by the Tigers, the play would seal Dalhousie’s fate.
“They are a tough, hard-nosed team,” said head coach Rob Smart following his team’s win. “The first half was ugly, but we found our way through in the second.”
The Ravens will face the winner of the second semi-final between Ryerson and Calgary in the championship final on Sunday.
“Either team we play tomorrow will be tough,” said Payen Boucard, referring to the other semi-final between Calgary and Ryerson. “We just need to stick to our game plan; we can’t have those lapses like we did today.”
The Wood brothers had strong contributions for the Ravens in the win over Dalhousie. Connor Wood finished the game with 18 points (4-9 3-PT FG), extending his scoring streak of games with 15 or more points to five straight contests. Mitch Wood (Guelph, ON) nearly captured a double-double as he finished the game with 10 points and a share of the team rebound lead with 7.
The Ravens edged Dalhousie in rebounds, 41-37.
With the semi-final victory, Carleton moves to 5-1 all-time against Dalhousie.
RAVENS PLAYER OF THE GAME:
#10 Connor Wood – Guard – 4th year – Guelph, ON
CIS Final 8 – Carleton vs. TBD – Sunday, March 20, 2016 – 5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. ET – Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre (Vancouver, BC)