Mustangs face fierce competition in Ottawa

Balanced scoring, experience should make team

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Mustangs' basketball player with possession of the ball

Shaun Ding

MUSTANGS PUSHING THEIR WAY TO THE TOP. The men's basketball team is heading to the Nation's Capital tonight for its first Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship game against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. The game will be televised on The Score at 6 p.m.

This season, the Western men’s basketball team rode veteran leadership, balanced scoring, tenacious defence and a deep bench to a second straight Ontario University Athletics West division title.

Now the ’Stangs are hoping their experience and solid team play will translate into success at the next level, too.

National semi-finalists a year ago, Western looks to take the next step and bring the W.P. McGee trophy home for the second time in school history when it opens tournament play tonight against the fifth-seeded Ottawa Gee-Gees at Scotiabank Place.

The Mustangs, who enter tournament play as the fourth seed after a 19-3 regular season and an impressive run to the OUA finals, are one of eight teams vying to be crowned as the new Canadian Interuniversity Sport national champions. Last year’s winners, the Brock Badgers, failed to make the playoffs after stumbling to an 8-14 record this season.

Western head coach Brad Campbell was quick to acknowledge the strength of this year’s bracket.

“The field at this year’s tournament is outstanding,” he said.

Despite defeating Ottawa 73-53 back on Nov. 7 in the friendly confines of Alumni Hall, Campbell and his boys realize they will be taking on a vastly improved Gee-Gees lineup in a hostile environment this time around.

“The game we played back in November against Ottawa really doesn’t mean anything at this stage,” the third-year bench boss said.

“They’ve gotten a lot better ... they’ve added a tremendous player [Syracuse University transfer guard Josh Wright] to their roster since.”

Veteran forward Keenan Jeppesen, who ranked second on the team in scoring this season with 16 points per game, echoed his coach’s sentiment.

“We will prepare for them like this is the first time we have seen them all year,” he said.

The road to the title won’t get any easier for the Mustangs should they get through their quarterfinal match-up with the Gee-Gees. Barring a major upset by the eighth-seeded St. Francis Xavier X-Men, the top-ranked Carleton Ravens will be waiting for Western in the semis.

The talented Ravens, who got the best of the Mustangs in two previous tilts this season, have captured five of the last six national titles.

Still, Jeppesen remains upbeat about his team’s chances against the best Canada has to offer.

“Our balanced attack has been our staple all year,” he said. “When we are all on at the same time the result is a game like we had in the OUA West final [a 98-66 victory over Windsor].

“If we can duplicate that then we are very hard to beat.”

Campbell is hoping the experience his players gained by participating in last year’s tournament will translate into the type of intensity and execution it takes to win at the national level.

“Playing at this time of year, playing in a large venue with big crowds ... all of that is very familiar to us,” he said.

“That can do nothing but help.”

Canadian Interuniversity Sport Final Eight Seeds

  1. Carleton Ravens
    (21-1) Ontario University Athletics champions
    Player to watch: Stuart Turnbull, 16.73 points per game
  2. Calgary Dinos
    (17-5) Canada West champions
    Player to watch: Henry Bekkering, 20.22 ppg
  3. University of British Columbia Thunderbirds
    (21-2) Canada West finalists
    Player to watch: Josh Whyte, 4.85 assists, 13.9 ppg
  4. Western Mustangs
    (19-3) OUA finalists
    Players to watch: Brad Smith 18.27 ppg, 6.5 rebounds; Keenan Jeppesen, 15.95 ppg, 9.05 rebounds
  5. Ottawa Gee-Gees
    (19-3) OUA bronze medalists
    Players to watch: Dax Dessureault, 15.23 ppg, 6.73 rebounds; Joshua Gibson-Bascombe, 17.62 ppg, 6.9 rebounds
  6. Dalhousie Tigers
    (13-7) Atlantic University Sport champions
    Simon Farine, 19.1 ppg, 5.25 rebounds
  7. Concordia Stingers
    (12-4) Quebec Student Sports Federation champions
    Damian Buckley, 19.75 ppg, 5.1 assists, 5.75 rebounds
  8. St Francis Xavier X-Men
    (17-3) AUS finalists
    Christian Upshaw, AUS MVP, 19.1 ppg, 47.92 percentage

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