The lights were bright, the seats were full, and the atmosphere was electric as the University of Toronto Varsity Blues took on the Ottawa Gee-Gees on November 26 at the Goldring Center. The Toronto Varsity Blues men’s basketball team had lost all of their three Ontario University Athletics matches coming into the game. They were unable to turn around that record by the end of Friday night, and the game ended 82–71.
As soon as the game started, the Gee-Gees played a high press, barely giving the Blues any time to breathe on the ball. The first quarter was tight and low-scoring as Ottawa’s zone defense caused the Blues a little bit of trouble. It seems like every single bucket that the Blues got was hard-earned, especially with the way Gee-Gees Forward Maxime Boursiquot was protecting the basket and contesting any shots in the paint.
About six and a half minutes into the game, the Blues were trailing 9–2. The Gee-Gees were by far the better team at this point, getting easy buckets, closely guarding the Blues players, and passing the ball around with ease.
Suddenly, the Blues were presented with a saving grace. They switched point guards from the reliable 6–2 veteran Inaki Alvarez to the 5–10 rookie Kalyem Liburd-Mullings.
As soon as Liburd-Mullings got ahold of the rock, he was sending it flying from beyond the arc and the shots were going in. The first three-hit cut the game to a temporary five-point deficit for the Blues. As the ball hit the net, the crowd erupted as the Blues had finally found a way to score against the scrappy Gee-Gees’ defense. With some help from Steven Rwahwire, who had an acrobatic block, they ended the first quarter with only an eight-point deficit; 17–9 in favor of Gee-Gees.
The Blues seemed reinvigorated in the second quarter and more players started to contribute to the lead. But who was the player with the most points? Liburd-Mullings. Who had a three at the beginning of the quarter? Liburd-Mullings. Who was that behind the arc? Liburd-Mullings. Any time that he had the ball in his hands in the second quarter, the crowd cheered him on, expecting the shot to go in. On his fourth three, Liburd-Mullings turned around and looked at the crowd before the shot went in — a masterclass in showmanship. The commentators started comparing Liburd-Mullings to the professionals, saying that one of his shots was “Curry-esque” — a hat-tip to NBA three-point specialist Stephen Curry.
Starting in the third quarter, more Blues chimed in. Blues’ 2019–2020 top scorer Evan Shadkami started to knock down some shots, contributing seven points. Former FC Bayern Munich basketball player Lennart Weber also started to look more comfortable in the paint.
The sole bright spot of the game, though, was definitely Liburd-Mullings. His sharpshooting made the loss still entertaining for fans, coaches, and players alike.
The Varsity Blues sought their first win in the second game of the back-to-back series against the Gee-Gees on Saturday, November 27 — however, that match also ended in a loss for the Blues, with a final score of 53–61 in favour of Ottawa. If the Blues can find a way to get more players on the scoreboard and tighten up their defense, the wins should follow in upcoming games.