It’s not been the first half Peter Benoite and his Sea-Hawks were expecting after a stunning pre-season. The Memorial men’s basketball team sits at the periphery of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference playoff picture with a 3-5 record. The second half of their season begins in a pair at home January 9 against the Acadia Axemen.
The momentum gained with big wins against household names in the Canadian university basketball scene such as UBC, Alberta, and Guelph (all nationally ranked) in the season tune-ups, as well as a pair of convincing wins on opening weekend against St. Mary’s, has all but evaporated for a team that limped into the holiday break having lost three straight. After getting a hard-fought split with fellow underachievers UNB, the Sea-Hawks dropped a pair of crucial four-point road games to the Cape Breton Capers to close out the fall semester.
Comparing the performances and statistics of wins and losses for the Sea-Hawks is night and day. Memorial are 3-1 when they score 90 points or more, and 0-4 when they do not. In losses, Memorial shoot between 20-30 per cent from the floor—in wins, between 40-50 per cent. Offensive cold spots are clearly a crutch for the team, who often win and lose games by double figures. Putting together a consistently strong scoring showing will be key for Benoite’s men going forward.
Vasilije Curcic, Memorial’s star turn big man, has improved on his already formidable numbers from last season. Averaging over 20 points and eight rebounds a game, he also leads the conference in blocked shots (16). Memorial sorely missed his presence on both ends against Cape Breton, shooting around 30 per cent in both games without the Serbian and giving up 85 points each time. Of course, any team would struggle without one of their best all-around players, but the Sea-Hawks struggles perhaps hint that they still have some problems of squad depth to be addressed even after off-season improvements/signings.
Memorial’s toughest tests will come in the dying embers of the season, as they play host to the impressive Dalhousie Tigers (5-2) who have already held the Sea-Hawks to season lows in points on the road (62 and 63), before traveling to the other joint conference-leading team, the UPEI Panthers (5-2) and the AUS’ leading scorer Tyler Scott (32.5 PPG).
Whatever the outcome of this season, Memorial has proven that the talent at their disposal is more than capable of beating the conference’s best on their day. From the all-star calibre performances of Curcic, Caleb Gould, and Noel Moffatt to build around, to an injection of speed and handling at the guard position from veteran Davion Parnsalu and new signing Daniel Gordon, the Sea-Hawks are no pushovers. Whether or not the team is able to put it all together in time to book their playoff tickets is simply a question of showing their class and cohesion as a unit on any given game day.
The Sea-Hawks look to kickstart their playoff push against the Acadia Axemen Saturday January 9 (8:00 PM) and Sunday January 10 (1:00 PM) at the Field House.