Brandon University head coach Gil Cheung puts the Bobcats men's basketball team through its paces Thursday at the Healthy Living Centre. The Bobcats desperately need wins to stay in the playoff hunt. (COLIN CORNEAU / BRANDON SUN)
Trot out every sports cliché in the book — "Our backs are against the wall," "It’s a must win," "It’s do or die" — and you start to get an understanding of the predicament the Brandon University Bobcats men’s basketball team is in.
While the situation may be dire for the Bobcats (3-11), it won’t change the team’s philosophy when they host the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (10-4) at the Healthy Living Centre tonight at 8 o’clock.
"We just continue to take it one game at a time, even smaller than that, one possession at time," Bobcats second-year guard Ilarion Bonhomme said.
The Bobcats are on life support in the Canada West Prairie Division, sitting 14 points back of the Huskies and the University of Manitoba Bisons for the fourth and final playoff spot. The team could officially be eliminated from contention tonight with a Bobcats loss coupled with a Manitoba win over Lethbridge.
Making matters worse, the Bobcats, who are metaphorically clinging to life for a playoff spot, are also filling up the infirmary as players continue to fall victim to injuries. The latest casualty, Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak, was leading the team with 14.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game prior to suffering a fractured clavicle last week.
With injuries piling up, Bonhomme knows it’s not going to get any easier for the Bobcats this weekend, facing the conference’s most productive offence and leading scorer, Stephon Lamar, who is averaging 25 points per game.
"We all have to step up," Bonhomme said. "It can’t just be one person, we all have to step up to make up for (Benabdelhak’s) absence."
If the Bobcats are eliminated, it will represent the fourth consecutive year the team has failed to get to the dance.
Cheung, who never missed the playoffs with the Bobcats during his five-year playing career, said it’s unacceptable for the team to be in this position so early in the season.
"We’re building a program with younger guys and it’s going to take some time before we can make a two-year run and we just don’t have the maturity on our team right now," Cheung said.
Maybe more frustrating for the coach is that he never got an opportunity to see what this year’s team could have been, due to injuries that decimated the club. Last year’s leading scorer, Emerick Ravier, has missed the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Isaiah James, who was the team MVP in 2010-11 before taking last year off, has played in just nine games after suffering an ankle injury.
"Right now our margin for error just isn’t very big and I think guys have to understand the discipline of each possession," Cheung said. "We talk about the little things and controlling the things in a game that you can control."
Meanwhile, the BU women’s basketball team (0-14) would be eliminated from contention with a loss to Saskatchewan (8-6) tonight at 6 o’clock.
In volleyball, the Bobcats will face the Huskies in Saskatoon.
The men’s team (10-6) comes into the contest tied for third in the conference with the Huskies (10-6). The women’s team (6-10) — two points out of the final playoff spot —needs a strong showing against the Huskies (3-13) after dropping their only other meeting with Saskatchewan in September.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 25, 2013