After writing exams all week, the Brandon University Bobcats face another tough test this weekend.
BU’s men’s basketball team (5-9) will try to keep its Canada West conference playoff hopes alive when the Bobcats face the fifth-ranked Saskatchewan Huskies (9-4) tonight and Saturday in Saskatoon.
“We’ve let a couple of games slip away and there’s six games left and we know exactly where we stand, so every game is vital for our playoff hopes,” said Bobcats head coach Gil Cheung, whose team has dropped three in a row and sits two games back of the Lethbridge Pronghorns (7-7) for the final playoff spot in the Prairie Division. “It’s a tough place to play and one of the best teams in the country, so we’ll be prepared and hopefully we can squeak a couple of games out.”
There hasn’t been much time this week for the Bobcats to study what the Huskies do well, considering they have had to cram for first semester final exams that are usually held in December when teams are idle. However, the 45-day BU faculty strike extended the semester, forcing Bobcat players to juggle final exams with preparations for games with playoff implications.
“It’s tough because normally at the end of the semester we are done playing, so it’s not ideal,” Cheung said. “But the team has been great and all we’re trying to do is make sure they focus on (exams) first and foremost ... But we’ve had a few good practises, so hopefully we will have a good showing this weekend.”
The Bobcats will again be without leading scorer Emerick Ravier (16.3 points per game), who is done for the season with a knee injury, according to Cheung. Ravier’s absence will make it that much more difficult to fashion an upset of the Huskies, who feature reigning Canada West MVP Jamelle Barrett (20.6 points per game).
The fallout from the strike has also left the Bobcats women’s basketball team at a competitive disadvantage this week, limiting practices to allow players to concentrate on their exams. The Bobcats (0-14), who have also lost fifth-year forward Jayla Bousquet for the rest of the year with a knee injury, were already facing a formidable task in trying to earn their first win of the season against the fourth-ranked Huskies (9-4).
“No question when you miss out on practice time, it hurts,” said Bobcats coach Ritchie Jacobson. “You need the quality reps and at this stage of the game, January and February, that’s what it’s all about is just quality reps and staying sharp. So yeah, it hurts this week.”
Dealing with exams in the middle of the season is doubly difficult for players like third-year forward Chantel Gaslard, who has to balance working part-time with taking a difficult Bachelor of Science course load and busy practice and game schedule.
“It makes it so tough because you have to worry about playing games, you have to worry about travelling and trying to keep up on your studies and you are just so busy,” said Gaslard. “Usually we have a little break in December so that we can focus on our studies and final exams, but right now you have to focus on everything all at once, so it’s a little difficult and a little stressful. You for sure lose some sleep.”
The load has been a little lighter for the Bobcats volleyball teams this week, who caught a break when the rescheduled exam week fell on the team’s bye week in the Canada West schedule. Coach Lee Carter’s Bobcats women’s team (8-8) and coach Russ Paddock’s eighth-ranked Bobcats men’s squad (9-7) return to action Feb. 3-4 when they travel to UBC.