OUA.tv Marquee Matchup: National powerhouses No. 1 Carleton, No. 2 Ottawa meet again in “Bytown Battle”

OUA.tv Marquee Matchup: National powerhouses No. 1 Carleton, No. 2 Ottawa meet again in “Bytown Battle”

Basketball fans don't have to wait long in 2015 to see the two best teams in the country face each other.

One of the best rivalries in Canadian university sport will be renewed Saturday night in the nation's capital when the CIS No. 1-ranked Carleton Ravens travel across town to face the No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees in a rematch of the 2014 OUA Wilson Cup and CIS National Championship game.
 
It was Ottawa who captured the OUA title last season, but the Ravens exacted their revenge in the CIS national championship by downing the Gee-Gees 79-67 in a game closer than the score lets on – Ottawa was only down four points mid-way through the fourth quarter.
 
Saturday marks the first time the two teams have met since the 2014 finals and comes on the heels of a wild week for Ottawa who was stranded in Halifax until late Monday night and didn't arrive home until early Tuesday morning after winning the Rod and Joan Shoveller Memorial Tournament.
 
"We had some inclement weather and had to stay an extra night, but we were told we'd possibly be there until Wednesday or Thursday," said Ottawa head coach James Derouin. "Fortunately we were able to get a flight out and didn't really miss any practice. The team kind of used it as a bonding experience."
 
Now back home, Derouin's squad is hoping to take advantage of playing in its own gym against Carleton, something that hasn't happened since the 2012-13 season when Carleton beat Ottawa in a triple-overtime thriller.
 
With the annual Capital Hoops game, as well as the CIS Final 8 tournament, taking place at the Canadian Tire Centre – home to the NHL's Ottawa Senators – and last year's OUA championship being played in Toronto, three of the teams' four meetings last season were played in neutral venues.
 
Needless to say, Derouin and the Gee-Gees are more than happy to open their doors to the Ravens.
 
"I think all of us wish we could play them on home court at least once every year," said Ottawa's fifth-year guard Johnny Berhanemeskel, who could be facing the Ravens at home for the final time in his career. "We haven't played them in a while, team dynamics have changed on both sides so it will be key to prepare for those changes while maintaining our style."
 
Both teams currently boast identical 8-0 records in conference play and though the stakes may not be as high as the teams' previous two meetings, bragging rights and potentially home court advantage in the Wilson Cup are on the line.
 
"It's a heavyweight fight and this is the first round," said Derouin. "Both teams are coming out competitive but with the roster changes from last year we'll both be feeling each other out and figure out what we can and can't do. It should be a sold out crowd and great atmosphere, so we're really excited for that."
 
Ottawa comes into the game with the best offence in the country, while Carleton is allowing the fewest points per game in CIS play.
 
However, that's not to say either side is one dimensional; Ottawa's defence has allowed the fifth fewest points per game in the country, while Carleton's offence ranks third among all Canadian schools.
 
"It will be tough to hold Ottawa under their normal output because we need to play fast as well to have any chance," said Carleton head coach Dave Smart. "Obviously Caleb Agada is playing at an incredible level and Johnny Berhanemeskel and Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue are as good as it gets in the CIS. Trying to control them on the boards will help, but that isn't easy."
 
Berhanemeskel has blossomed into one of the best guards in the country and is currently averaging 23.1 points (second in OUA) and shooting 61.1 percent from the field, fourth best in the league. However, in eight career regular season games against the Ravens he has only averaged 13.9 points, opposed to his average of 18.9 against all other opponents during that time. But "Johnny B" has saved some of the best performances of his career for Ottawa's playoff matchups against Carleton, averaging more than 20 points in three post-season games.
 
Carleton has graduated some key players from last year, most notably former CIS MVP Tyson Hinz and has relied on Thomas and Phil Scrubb as well as contributions from others stepping into larger roles. In their careers, the Scrubb brothers have combined for three 30+ point games against Ottawa; two from Phil and one from Thomas.
 
"We aren't even close to where we need to be if we want to contend at the end," said Smart.  "Losing Tyson (Hinz) and Kevin Churchill has been a difficult hole to fill. I think our guys are working hard and I hope by the end we can be at a level that gives us a chance."
 
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 10 in front of a sold out Montpetit Hall packed with fans from both schools.
 
If you can't make it to the game in person, be sure to catch all the action live on OUA.tv or on Rogers TV 22 in the Ottawa region!
 
Marquee Matchup By the Numbers

0.1% – Difference in team field goal percentage between the Ravens and Gee-Gees. Carleton ranks first in OUA shooting 52.6% while Ottawa is second at 52.5%. They are the only two schools in the conference shooting above 50% as a team.

100-0 – The combined record of the Ravens and Gee-Gees since the beginning of the 2013-14 season (including exhibition and playoff games) against CIS opponents other than when they play each other. Carleton has a 47-1 record in that time; with the only loss coming in the 2014 OUA championship game against the Gee-Gees. Ottawa has a 53-3 record with all three losses coming to the Ravens, including the 2014 national championship.

1-11 - Ottawa's record against Carleton in regular season and playoff meetings the past four years. Both Berhanemeskel and Gonthier-Dubue, as well as the Scrubb brothers have appeared in each of those games.

18.8 – Points per game this season for Phil Scrubb, the Ravens leading scorer.

200 – Combined 3-pointers made by Ottawa and Carleton this year. The two best 3-point shooting teams in OUA, Ottawa has made 104, shooting 40.9% from beyond the arc, while Carleton has knocked down 96 threes while shooting 47.5%.

17 – The smallest margin of victory by either school in their combined 16 wins. McMaster's 92-75 loss to the Ravens on Nov.8 was the closest any OUA team has come to knocking off an Ottawa school.