The Varsity Blues women’s basketball team fell 69–56 to the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees at home on Friday. The CIS number ten Blues came into the game on a four-game home win streak, but the Gee-Gees, ranked seventh, proved too much for them.
Ottawa started strong, controlling the tip-off and scoring the first points of the contest. The Gee-Gees’ physical gameplay and powerful defense allowed them to contain the Blues and control the pace of the game. Toronto did their best to keep up throughout the first quarter, which ended 19–13 to Ottawa.
The Gee-Gees continued their physical style at the beginning of the second quarter, but three quick fouls slowed Ottawa’s momentum and allowed Toronto back into the game. The Blues held OUA scoring leader Hannah Sunley-Paisley of the Gee-Gees to just four first-half points, a testament to U of T’s strong defense.
The Gee-Gees got into foul trouble early in the quarter and went into bonus with over six minutes left in the period. The Blues capitalized on the resulting foul and bonus shot opportunities to pull ahead. However, excellent shooting by the Gee-Gees prevented the team from falling too far. Although Toronto had momentum, they ended the half up by only one, with the score 37–36.
“In the first half, we were pretty aggressive on defense and we managed to convert on offense,” said Jill Stratton, the Blues’ leading scorer on the night with 18 points. “We were just making shots and defending [well]. We changed our defense [in the second quarter]; we threw a different zone press at [the Gee-Gees] so that might have thrown them off… We were just working well together.”
Ottawa scored first to open the second half, continuing their impressive shooting and smothering defense. The Blues allowed themselves to fall behind as their defence faded and their shots stopped falling. Toronto’s women went cold in the second half, missing outside shots, short-range jumpers, and even layups. The inability to finish allowed the Gee-Gees to take the lead 55–43 at the end of the third quarter.
“[In the second half], we got deep in the shot clock on offense, so our offense was pretty stagnant early,” explained Toronto captain Sherri Pierce. “We weren’t getting quality shots and [the Gee-Gees] were.”
The momentum was strongly with Ottawa in the fourth quarter, as the Blues continued to miss shots while the Gee-Gees continued to make them. Ottawa ended the game with a 50 per cent field goal success rate; the Blues shot just 21 per cent in the second half, to bring their overall shooting percentage down to 31 per cent.
“Our defense needs to be better,” said Stratton. “And hopefully next time [we play Ottawa], it will be.”
Blues head coach Michele Belanger said the team intended to use a similar defense-centered strategy against CIS number-four Carleton on Saturday night. “We have to find a way to defend their three-point shooters and their attackers, so that’s what it comes down to. We have to try to find a little more energy in ourselves and in the team game and follow the game plan as best we can, and communicate defensively with each other. And we’re certainly capable.”
The Blues are choosing to focus on winning games rather than their CIS ranking, which will likely fall as a result of their loss to Ottawa.
“We never really talk about [our ranking], and we’re certainly not going to move up today,” admitted Belanger. “We just want to put ourselves in a good playoff spot. Our goal is to get to nationals so that’s what we’re keeping ourselves cued onto.
Everything else is just a bonus really. We’ve got a long road ahead.”