U Sports Basketball (W): Taking a look at the semi-finals

Eight teams enter Thursday’s quarterfinals with their quest to win the Bronze Medal. Four teams will continue their journey to capture the national championship on Sunday. The AUS champions, the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), Panthers beat the OUA runner- up Ryerson Rams in the first game at nationals. 

The OUA champions, Brock Badgers, beat the wildcard Calgary Dinos in a nail-biter. The RSEQ champions, the Laval Rouge et Or, beat the Canada-West runner-up, the Alberta Pandas. The last game of the day saw Canada-West champions, the Saskatchewan Huskies, beat the host team Carleton Ravens. For the first team since 2016, all of the conference champions are the final- four teams remaining.

 U Sports Semi-Finals Preview

#6 UPEI Panthers vs. #2 Brock Badgers:

Both the Panthers and the Badgers ended long droughts with their quarterfinal’s victories on Thursday. The Panthers have played in a national semi-final since 1989 when they beat University of Victoria Vikes in semis and lost to the Dinos in the championship game. The Badgers have not played in the national semi-final since 1983 when they lost to eventual champion, Bishop’s Gaiters.

The Panthers journey to the semi-finals start after they beat the two-time AUS champion, the Acadia Axewomen, in the championship game and on Thursday in the quarterfinals, they stunned OUA runner-up, the Ryerson Rams, 75-70 after they came back in the fourth-quarter after trailing by ten points. The Panthers finished the AUS regular season as the best team in conference, winning their final four games to put their record at 17-3.

The Badgers are currently on a magical run led by OUA coach of the year, Mike Rao and OUA MVP, Melissa Tatti. They have stunned some schools during the OUA regular season which saw them finish with a 17-5 record. They pulled an upset over the Ryerson Rams in the OUA championship game, winning 84-72. On Thursday afternoon, they beat the wildcard Calgary Dinos in a back-and-forth game, 72-71. The Badgers in 1983, came home with a bronze medal after they beat the Concordia Stingers.

Can the Panthers defense lead them to victory?

The Panthers were the best defensive team in the AUS, finishing first or second in a majority of defensive categories. They finished first in opposing FG percentage: 34.6 percent, points holding teams to 61.9 points per game and turnovers per game after they averaged 13.6 turnovers per game. They were second in three-point percentage with 25.2 % and blocks as well as they averaged 4.0 blocks per game. Fourth- year center Carolina Del Santo was a defensive star this season after she had 107 defensive rebounds and 23 blocks along with 25 steals.

Whose one-two punch will have a better performance? Panthers with Ellsworth and Baxendale or the Badgers with Tatti and Keltos?

Fourth-year guard, Jenna Mae-Ellsworth won  U Sports player of the year, Nan Copp on Wednesday becoming just the third player from the AUS to win the award. She averaged 20.5 points per game (fourth in U Sports and AUS) and  348 points. She also averaged 5.9 rebounds per game and 100 rebounds. She also had 55 assists and 35 steals (fourth in AUS). She had 22 points and 13 rebounds in Thursday’s win.

Third-year guard, Reese Baxendale averaged 19.0 points per game and 380 points (3rd in AUS) along with 95 rebounds, 74 assists (third in AUS) and 32 steals. She was one rebound shy of the double- double with 19 points in Thursday’s victory.

Senior point-guard Melissa Tatti won the OUA MVP award after she averaged 18.5 points per a game and 407 points (first in OUA), she also had 145 assists (first in OUA) and 55 steals. Tatti was very quiet in their quarterfinals win as she had 17 points and seven rebounds. She scored the game final- five points.

Junior center Samantha Keltos averaged 15.4 points per game, 323 points. She also had 167 rebounds (eighth in OUA) and 43 blocks (second in U Sports). She had 24 points and five rebounds in the quarterfinals win.

Could Badgers’ three point shooting be the key to win?

The Badgers were one of the top three-pointing shooting in the country as they averaged 25.9 attempts per a game (fifth in OUA), they made 8.1 three-point (third) and finally three-point percentage: 31.5% (third in OUA). They made 179 threes in the regular season which was fourth in U Sports. Tatti had 49 threes during the regular season. In the Badgers quarter finals win, they were 10/24 from downtown, led by guard/forward Jessica Morris who went 5/7.

#4 Laval Rouge et Or vs. #1 Saskatchewan Huskies:

The Huskies are playing in third-straight semi-finals at nationals, last year they lost to Ottawa Gee-Gees in bronze-medal game and two-years ago they lost to Carleton Ravens in the championship game. They are hoping to win their second bronze baby in five-years. The Huskies, throughout the season, have been one of the best teams in the country, finishing the year with an 18-2 record. The Huskies journey to the semi-finals saw them beat Alberta Pandas in CW championship game to win their fourth CW title in five years and repeat as champions. They beat the host Carleton Ravens in the quarterfinals, 73-59.

The Laval Rouge et Or are playing in their second- straight semi- finals and second in four years. Both times, they lost in the championship game, losing to McGill in 2018 and last year to McMaster. The Rouge et Or finished the RSEQ regular season with a 12-4 record and beat the University of Quebec of Montreal Citadins, 62-54 to win the conference. They beat Alberta Pandas in the quarter-finals, 59-52.

Will the Huskies defense be able to defend against U Sports Defensive Player of the year, Khaleann Caron-Goudreau?

The Huskies have one of their toughest tasks of the whole season as they must find a way to shut down Laval’s 6’3’’ second-year winger, Kaelan Caron- Goudreau. Goudreau won her second-straight U Sports defensive player of the year after averaging 10.8 rebounds\game,141 rebounds including 100 defensive boards. She also had 20 blocks. Lastly, she finished first in RSEQ for FG% with .529. Goudreau against the Pandas in the quarterfinals had a double- double with 17 points and 19 rebounds including 13 defensive rebounds.

The Huskies were first in Canada-West and in U Sports in many of the defensive categories. Opponents have averaged 49.5 points/game, opposing FG% with 29.4% and lastly opposing 3pt FG % with 24.3%. The Huskies were fifth in U Sports turnovers per game, averaging 14.6 turnovers per game. The Huskies only averaged 30.3 defensive rebounds\game which was sixth in U Sports.

Will Laval be able to stop the high-powerful offence machine, Saskatchewan Huskies?

The Huskies enter their semi-finals averaging a country best,83.0 points per game and 1,660 points. They also led the country in rebounding where they averaged 48.9 rebounds per game. The team scoring comes from all-Canadian fourth- year forward, Summer Masikewich.  Masikewich averaged 17.4 points per a game and 349 points in regular season. She also averaged 9.1 rebounds per game and 181 rebounds which includes 80 offensive rebounds (second in U Sports). She had 11 points and five rebounds in the quarterfinals win over Carleton.

Fifth-year guard and CW all-star Sabine Dukate averaged 14.3 points per a game and 287 points. She also had 51 rebounds and 64 assists. Lastly, she led the country in threes, hitting 59/150. She was the leading scorer in the quarterfinals with 21 points and rebounds. She was 5/11 from downtown in the win.

The Rouge et Or’s opponents have averaged 57.8 points per game against them which was first in RSEQ. They were first in opposing FG percentage, holding the team to shoot just .316 against them. The Rouge et Or finished first in three-point percentage as teams from downtown shot .259 against them.

If the first day on Thursday was any indication, we are in store for two fantastic semi-finals this afternoon. If you’re in Ottawa do not be afraid to check out any of the games and for those outside Ottawa, you can watch the games streamed on the CBC Gem app.

Cover PHoto: Greg Mason/ U Sports

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