Gee-Gees and Ravens will meet for the first time this season
The 2022 edition of the Capital Hoops Classic did not favour the University of Ottawa. Both the men’s and women’s team visited their cross-town rivals at Carleton University for their annual rivalry game.
With limited fans and the Ravens having home-court advantage, the Gees were unable to take down their neighbours despite the Ottawa teams having dominant seasons up to that point.
This time, TD Place will be host to the Gee-Gees, Ravens, and a stadium full of fans — as it should be.
There’s no doubt that things will get intense with some of the best teams in the nation meeting for the first time this season, and playoffs on the horizon. Surely, emotions will be running high.
With the game only days away, here are some things to think about.
Not the same Carleton
Usually, the Ravens are a team to be feared; one that always made beating even the best teams look easy, one that could walk through any path and find themselves playing for a championship.
Not only that, but they lead the Capital Hoops Classic with a 12-3 record over the Gee-Gees.
However, the 16-time reigning U Sports men’s basketball national champions are not the team they’ve been in the past.
The 2021-22 Ravens played nearly a perfect season, defeating the Gees in the Capital Hoops Classic 71-58, and then again 64-59 before going on to complete a U Sports championship run (faltering only in the OUA East final, where they fell to Queen’s University).
Right now, the Ravens are sitting at 13-4, with losses at the hands of Queen’s and Brock early in the season. More recently, the Ravens were swept in a weekend trip to Toronto, dropping tight games to the University of Toronto and Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU).
The Gee-Gees are 14-3, coming off an unfortunate loss to Queen’s last week. Despite the hiccup, the Gees have been an OUA powerhouse, sitting at second place in the OUA East, and leading the conference in three-pointers made per game.
No surprise, Guillaume Pepin remains a key player for the Gee-Gees with 281 points in the team’s 17 games. Pepin is no stranger to the atmosphere of the Capital Hoops Classic, and in 2020, he dropped 15 points in the 68-67 victory.
Dragan Stajic, the U of O’s point guard, was a part of that team as well, but only stepped on the court for a few moments. This time around, Stajic will be in the middle of it all, and will be playing a much bigger, much more important role as he controls the team’s offence.
Two notable pickups for the Gee-Gees have been Brock Newton and Kevin Otoo. Previously playing at Bucknell, B. Newton is a complimentary forward to Pepin, and registered 10 rebounds in their loss to Queen’s. Otoo spent last year with Humber College, earning MVP honours after leading the team to a CCAA championship title. Since joining the Gees, Otoo has put up 160 points and 61 rebounds.
While this could be the perfect opportunity for the U of O to defeat Carleton in a big game, the Ravens will be headed to TD Place with an experienced point guard — one who’s familiar with the Gee-Gees.
Aidan Warnholtz has been on fire this season. Last weekend, Warnholtz contributed 28 points against Queen’s and 36 against Ontario Tech. Alongside him, at 6’10, Grant Shephard is a key component in the Ravens’ system, and if they heat up, they could be big trouble for the Gees.
The Capital Hoops game is a huge test for the Gee-Gees. They need to bounce back from their loss and win the rivalry game, because on Sunday, they are headed to Kingston for a rematch against Queen’s.
Don’t let it be ten
The Gee-Gees women’s basketball team started the season 13-0, and were the top-ranked team in the nation.
It’s not easy to maintain that level of dominance through a season, and it was TMU who snapped the win streak earlier this month.
Now at 15-2 (after losing to Queen’s 70-58 over the weekend,) the U of O has matching records with their Carleton counterparts.
The difference is that Carleton is super hot on a 9-game winning streak, and they made sure Queen’s suffered a much-needed, humbling experience, taking them down 64-32.
It’s likely the Ravens would love to give the Gee-Gees the same treatment, especially at the Capital Hoops Classic. The Gees are a great target for the Ravens; who wouldn’t want to take down their rivals in front of thousands of fans and extend their winning streak to ten games?
But, it’s easier said than done. The U of O leads the league in scoring, rebounds per game, as well as blocks and steals per game, proving that the team is capable of controlling both sides of the ball, and various aspects of the game.
A large part of this is undoubtedly Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu, who is putting up a fifth incredible season as a Gee-Gee.
Natsuki Szczokin continues to be the reliable point guard for the U of O while upping her scoring. She has a phenomenal cast around her with Alana Renon and Nadine Katumbayi.
Melina De lulio and Savannah Provo have both proven themselves as solid bench players. De lulio even hit her career-high 20 points against Ontario Tech this season.
This game is critical for both teams, but the Gee-Gees need to put an end to the Carleton winning streak. Doing so would simultaneously put them back on track, and hopefully give them the momentum they need to take down Queen’s on Sunday.
If you haven’t already, grab your Capital Hoops tickets here. Tip-off for the women is at 6 P.M., and for the men, 8 P.M.