Ravens Back Tigers Into Corner and Peck Them Into Slump-Shouldered Helplessness

They only hit one three-point shot in the first quarter this time, unlike the six bombs they dropped on the startled heads of the young Memphis Tigers last Saturday night, but the Carleton Ravens still led by 11 after a quarter. Memphis, after overwhelming the UOttawa Gee-Gees (and their sad-sack practice jerseys) in the second half Sunday and blitzing the McGill Redmen Monday in Montreal, were back in the Ravens Nest to show that their fourth quarter against Carleton in game one represented the Real Tigers, not the 32 they were down late in the third of their 86-76 loss in the first game of their Canadian tour.

They couldn’t do it. They scrapped hard and were down 13 instead of 26 at half, but by the end of 3 it was another 20-something thumping at the hands of their northern hosts, and the toll got as high as 34 – thirty-four points – before the bruising final tally of 92-60 appeared. These numbers are eerily similar to the impossible average figures Carleton had in leading the nation last season in both points scored per game and points allowed. The Ravens treated the Tigers the way they treated their fellow Canadians for their most recent run to the CIS title. Man, they’re good! Dave Smart was actually seen clapping his hands once or twice. “I think we’re a lot better than I thought we were going to be,” he admitted in this Ottawa Citizen game report. Even the famously grumpy Coach Dave was impressed.

The “Can-Am Shootout”, the skeleton crew of the Carleton sports information department calls it. (I don’t think it’s just Charlie, but he did sell me an extra ticket on the phone as well as writing this morning’s hasty on-line summary.) The shootout is over, and the four-time defending champions of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), as is becoming Ravens Routine, went 4-1 against their NCAA1 big brothers. Actually, with their five years of eligibility and the tendency of players to actually get degrees, the CIS lads are often a little older than their American opponents. Still, there’s an element of David and Goliath, of little brother pinning the no-longer-grinning Big Guy, when the Ravens fly south. “Can you imagine,” said my thoroughly impressed 14-year-old, “what it must be like for guys like that to get hammered by a bunch of Canadians?!”

¹ Not Caring About Academics. Sorry, National Collegiate Athletic Association. That was a cheap shot. Outside of the big football factories and the basketball mills, most NCAA athletes are likely good students, and even some of the big boys get degrees in Actual Subjects.

Prettiest play of the night: Scrubb takes Pookie, scores over (Kuran) Iverson.

Prettiest play of the night: Scrubb takes Pookie, scores over (Kuran) Iverson.  (James Park, Ottawa Citizen photo)

Phil Scrubb, the only man to win three Moser awards as the CIS’s top gun, looks like a shoo-in for an absurd fourth. Rather than let him come off screens as he had for 35 points and 10 assists Saturday night, coach Josh Pastner had his quick and aggressive Tigers trapping Scrubb in the second and third quarters. Particularly in the third, he was cruel. Come to me, my lovelies, he might have been cooing – if he ever spoke on the court – as he backed up, drew the double-team towards him, and then made calmly superb deliveries to his wings for wide-open treys, or the perfect “hockey assist” to a teammate flashing reliably to the high post and then exercising his multiple options. It was surgical, and began to have the feel of inevitability.

“They’re givin’ up!” My son isn’t sports-mad like me, but he has good eyes: early in the fourth, Memphis was showing the same dispirited body language that we’re used to seeing on the Ravens’ home-grown opponents. They were tired, as Smart pointed out, having played four games in four nights. Sure they were. But there was no mistaking that slightly haunted, what the hell are we supposed to do against that? look in the eyes of the Tigers.  

Connor Wood scores on Shaq. (Goodwin, that is.)

Connor Wood scores on Shaq. (Goodwin, that is.) (From

Sports shorts: Scrubb had 30, and likely a dozen assists….Connor Wood scored 21, and not just off catch-and-shoots. Fast-break dunk didn’t fall as he was fouled, though T-Scrubb flushed the carom after the whistle….Thomas had 13, a bit of an off-game for him….Cam Smythe wasn’t as strong as he’d been in the first match against the Tigers, but his fellow post Jean-Emmanuel Pierre-Charles was the best I’ve seen: active, tough….P-C is also studying civil engineering, for cryin’ out loud, while Tommy’s in neuroscience (!)….Smythe and Pierre-Charles share the minutes that departed star (and the last man not named Scrubb to win the Moser) Tyson Hinz used to dominate….As do most NCAA teams coming north, the Tigers wore practice jerseys, though classy ones in a gorgeous blue….Ravens made life miserable for rookie guards Pookie Powell and Dominic McGee, but those kids are quick and skilled. They’ll be good, and I’ll be interested to follow their progress (and not just because of the blue)….Nick King is a smooth scorer….Nice to see a D1 team up close, twice….Keelon Lawson, a prominent Memphis high school coach, and the even more prominent sire of four highly ranked national prospects, is already on Josh Pastner’s bench. Son the First comes next year, I think… .

Comments (2)

  1. Michael Freeman

    Wow! A whole lotta basketball. You almost had me hooked with the faint hockey analogies, but they faded all too quickly.

    I cannot help but wonder why a coach with this much moxey and talent for producing creme brule out of sour milk isn’t being sought after for a south-of-the-border gig and a high paying position? He probably is. Which then makes me question his sanity. Why stay north of the border to dance around goose droppings for pay and scramble for the yearly prospects, when he could use a rake to gather his cash down south? Maybe coaching isn’t all about money, or the prospect of glory, or the ability to hand-pick a squad from a large country’s wealth of seedlings.

    There are a lot of similarities between coaching and teaching. Every year you anticipate what kind of crop you’ll get. Will they have talent? Will they be motivated? Will they motivate you? Will the year be one struggle and disappointment after another, or will it be as slick as snapping together a pressure fitting on a well-engineered giant jigsaw puzzle?

    Oh well. I wish I liked basketball, I mean besides March Madness’s first weekend. Maybe I’d be able to put some thought into this.

    • An American Athletic Director would have to be thinking WAAAAYY outside the box to consider a Canuck, even someone as rabidly successful as Dave Smart. Apparently he nearly went several years ago, but couldn’t face telling the guys who’d given their all for him that he was departing. (Instead of announcing his departure, he ranted at them for half an hour on their inadequacies, to make them think *that* was why he’d called them to that meeting!) Recruiting is such a huge part of the job in the NCAA, where there are also restrictions on the time that coaches can spend with their players; in Canada, Coach Dave can give his guys all the time they can stand, including (perhaps even especially) in the off-season. Their development is unbelievable in the five (not, as in the NCAA, a maximum of four) seasons of eligibility. I’m like you, though: I do love the idea of tradition, lasting quality and permanence, but I’m curious about how he’d do down there. His tough love might be a tough sell to a lot of athletes; it is here, too, but he gets enough guys willing to endure relentless coaching.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *