LU will draw on experience at CIS tourney
By Gianluca Nesci / OTTAWA — The Lakehead University men’s basketball team has been here before. They understand the pressure that goes with being among the final eight at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship.
Having fallen at the quarter-final hurdle in each of the past three seasons, the team is hoping those experiences will help them get over the hump this weekend in Ottawa.
If it doesn’t help now for the six players in their final year of eligibility, it never will. Of that veteran group, four are likely to start this afternoon when they play in the opening quarter-final of the tournament against the Cape Breton University Capers.
While Thunderwolves head coach Scott Morrison did acknowledge the benefits of having a veteran group, he was quick to point out that experience alone will not lead his team to victory.
“Once the ball goes up, it just becomes two teams going at it,” he said. “Cape Breton has had a really great season, it’s going to take more than experience to beat them.”
The Thunderwolves were the first team to hit the Scotiabank Place court for practice Thursday morning as they prepared for today’s 12 p.m. contest.
Despite working hard during the hour-long session, the players looked relaxed.
Unlike in previous years, Morrison and his squad are underdogs, slotting in as the seventh seed this time around.
That’s just the way they like it.
“Last year we were favoured for much of the season and I don’t think it was something we were comfortable with,” Morrison said. “The guy that are graduating have been underdogs their whole career and they get to finish that way and make one last statement.”
One of those players is fifth-year guard Joseph Jones, who led his team to a 78-64 victory over the University of Windsor in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) bronze medal contest. The Washington, D.C., native poured in 23 points to secure a trip to the nation’s capital for one last shot at a CIS title.
“It would be great to go out on a high note,” he said. “We’re focused and we’re more ready than we’ve ever been before.”
The sixth man for the Thunderwolves, Jones provides instant offence off the bench. That’s become even more important since the season-ending injury to leading scorer Ryan Thomson, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during Lakehead’s second-round OUA playoff victory over McMaster University.
Lakehead’s vaunted defence will need to be sharp to slow down the high-powered attack of the Capers, whose 86.5 points per game was good enough for third in the country this season.
The Capers come into the competition boasting not only the second seed, but also one of the most potent scorers in the CIS.
Putting up 20.8 points per game during the regular season, veteran James Dorsey arrives in Ottawa as the leading scorer at the tournament. His 5.4 assists per game — also tops at the championship — make him a dual threat.
In his most recent performance, the six-foot-two guard had a game-high 30 points and eight assists to lead his team over the Acadia University Axemen in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) title game.
Lakehead’s Jones isn’t surprised by Dorsey’s almost-unstoppable offence for the Capers. He and Dorsey were roommates during their time at Howard College in Maryland.
“We just have to limit some of his options, he’s a good scorer but also a great passer, so if we cut down his options I think we’ll be fine,” Jones said, adding that he doesn’t plan to talk to his former teammate until after the game.
While reigning two-time CIS defensive player of the year Greg Carter will certainly devote much of his effort to slowing down Dorsey, don’t expect him to be the only one.
“I’m hoping (Dorsey) gets a big dose of everybody,” Morrison says. “I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on Greg’s shoulders to try and contain him. So it’ll be a team effort for sure.”
Fans can catch the Thunderwolves quarter-final game against Cape Breton today on the Internet at www.cis-sic.ca at 12 p.m.
Semifinal games will be played Saturday with the championship final set for 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.