We had our first game against CIS competition this past Saturday night as we hosted a strong and mature Laval team. As mentioned, this year is one of change for us as evidenced by 7 new faces in our 12-man game roster. Therefore, this game was an opportunity to see our relatively untested team go head to head with a group that should make the top ten in preseason rankings.
Heading into the game our biggest concern was whether we would be able to physically hold our own at this point in the season. We realized that there would be breakdowns on both ends of the floor as the new and old players continue to get to know our systems and each other. However, the questions of whether we would be able to rebound and defend well enough physically were the more pressing points of interest.
With a starting lineup that included Dan Bannister, Tim Boyle, Bernard Burgesson, Matt Baker and Greg Black (the latter two both being first year players) we started the game very well. The starting group showed good poise and physicality from the outset as we were able to hang in the game early while working out the expected jitters of our first game. Dan Bannister and Tim Boyle provided some early scoring and both showed flashes of their all-around improved offensvie ability throughout the night. In the defensive end we rebounded the ball extremely well and for the most part limited their second chance points.
Despite scoring early we began to find it more difficult to score as the game progressed. After the opening few minutes Laval quickly made the decision to move to switching every single screen on the floor. In doing this they took away a lot of the reads and looks that our players have become accustomed to seeing in practice over the past month. This is where our youth hurt us a bit at this point in the year. In the past with a more senior group this method would likely have been less successful, however, with so many new players we had a difficult time adjusting. Nonetheless, we defended and rebounded well as group and shot the ball well from the perimetre in the first half and as a result led by two going into the half.
We knew that we would see a much more aggressive and determined group of Laval players in the second half and we were right. Laval came out of the half very hard and played much more physical in both ends of the floor. At the same time our guys did not answer back as they are capable of doing and the result was a 27-10 drubbing by the end of the third quarter. In that ten minute time frame our guys got a clear indication of just how quickly a game can turn around if you are not completely focussed and determined to compete. During that run we struggled to score without question, however, the lesson that was of greater importance to our players is that when things are not going well in the offensive end we have to be able to dig down and defend our basket even harder. On this night that was not the case as our frustrations on offense directly translated to a lack of discipline and concentration in the defensive end.
Despite the loss there were a great deal of positives that can be taken from this game as we move ahead. I think without question we now know that we can compete physically in the defensive end and on the boards in both ends (rookie Greg Black finished with 5 offensive rebounds) and in fact Rob and I both feel that this group will eventually be capable of being the best defensive group we have had at Queen's (hopefully sooner than later). In addition, several of our rookies showed flashes of the potential to contribute in different ways to our growth as a program. No question, there is a great deal of work to be done and progress is crucial throughout this preseason so that we can be prepared to compete when the OUA season begins in November.
For anyone interested we host Bishop's in the ARC at 6 PM this Friday night. It should provide another unique challenge as we will see a much quicker, pressure oriented team this week. The following week we are off the Saskatchewan for a very tough tournament and the week after that we will close out our exhibition schedule at the McGill Invitational.
I hope this post finds everyone doing well and in good health.