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Men’s basketball team picks up their game in NCAA exhibitions

THEY TUMBLED, TOPPLED, and some even tripped—the Aug. 25 exhibition game against the St. Louis Billikens was not meant for the passive-aggressive. A small group of dedicated fans watched as the University of Ottawa’s men’s basketball team fought valiantly opposite their American NCAA Division-I counterparts in Montpetit Hall.

Although the Gees were unable to win, for head coach James Derouin the game was more about offering his team an opportunity to compete against a truly energized squad.

“We lost,” he said with a grin. “[But] just playing against good competition is always awesome. [It’s] a challenge, because it was a tough game. And when we do play our university games it is going to be just as intense.”

The game against the Billikens was one of three exhibition games played during the NCAA’s Canadian exhibition tour this month. The Gee-Gees lost the first match 73-61 against LaSalle University earlier this summer on Aug. 7. They then competed against Albany University on Aug.  24, where the Garnet and Grey suffered a 12-point loss despite their efforts and impressive dunks.

The teams’ most recent game saw the Gees fight neck and neck with the Billikens until the end of the third quarter. A three-point shot taken by second-year guard Johnny Berhanemeskel and an eye-capturing layup performed by second-year forward Chris Anderson kept the team rejuvenated and energized, bringing the score to an even 49-49.

But the last quarter saw the Billikens’ defence tighten and the Gees unable to score. St. Louis outshot the Garnet and Grey by 21 shots.

“We couldn’t run our stuff,” said Derouin. “We just have to handle pressure. We started getting some back door layups and some hooks, which got our guys going, but again, we [have] a really, really young team.”

The game ended with a final score of 61-80. Derouin attributed the score to the Gees’ persistent nature.

“I think we ran out of gas a little bit. We played a 48-minute game, which is eight minutes longer than a regular game. We did that so that we can get a lot of playing time for people, but then we got competitive and tried to win it.”

The exhibition games are used as friendly competition and give both teams the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned throughout the summer.

“We know that [the American teams] are going to compete really hard and they are going to bring a lot of aggression and energy—and that’s good because we need to get used to it now so we can have an advantage once the regular season starts in the [Canadian Interversity Sports],” said Berhanemeskel.

The team now has a week off as they prepare for the next series of exhibition games, which begin Sept. 9 with a game against University of California, Santa Barbara.

—Katherine DeClerq