By Jack MacCool
The defending Critelli Cup Champion Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold women’s basketball team defeated the Western University Mustangs 69-46 in the first round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) Wednesday night.
The last time the two teams faced off, TMU came away with a 30 point victory. With this being the opening round of the playoffs, the Bold weren’t taking any chances with the lower-seeded Mustangs.
“There was a little extra oomph to beat them,” said Bold guard Jayme Foreman. “Especially with it being the first playoff game and knowing what happened last time we played them, it was, ‘Okay, we’ve got to do this again. We’ve got to come out strong.’”
The win advances the Bold to the OUA quarter-final where they’ll travel to the nation’s capitol to take on the Carleton University Ravens on Feb. 25. Carleton took the sole regular season matchup against the Bold in January by ten points.
Forward Rachel Farwell led the way in the scoring department for TMU in Wednesday’s contest, registering 21 points to go along with nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Western’s star guard Ariane Saumure led all scorers with 22 after averaging over 18 points per game in the regular season.
Saumure provided the Bold with a challenge that will prepare them well for playing against Carleton whose leader is also a star point guard.
“[Tonight prepared us] really well. They’re really similar players I think,” said Bold head coach Carly Clarke. “Carleton will be even more deliberate and have their guard in open space and in ball screens. We dealt with 100 of those tonight and we’ll see 100 more on Saturday.”
Defence was the name of the game in the opening quarter as both teams did everything they could to thwart the other’s offence. TMU’s perimeter defence forced five turnovers in the first which helped the Bold finish the quarter on the right side of a 19-8 score.
Despite the double-digit lead, the quarter felt closer than the score, as Western forced four turnovers of their own and battled on every possession.
The highlight of the frame came in the form of an Eve Uwayesu baseline out of bounds play where the fifth-year guard threw the ball off the back of her defender for an uncontested layup.
Uwayesu was a major contributor for the Bold across the box score, putting up a near triple-double with seven points, eight rebounds and seven helpers.
“It was just being patient and allowing the game to come to me,” said Uwayesu. “I was just trying to do what I can to help the team get the win.”
The second quarter saw the Bold open up an even bigger lead off the back of their defence and hustle. TMU held the Mustangs to just 4-20 shooting through the opening quarter and a half while also pulling down 10 offensive rebounds to help them attempt nine more field goals than Western.
“It’s playoff time. We talked about how hard you have to play every single possession and not take a possession off,” said Clarke. “For the most part I think our effort was really, really there. We took care of rebounding which was one of our keys.”
In the two team’s previous meeting, Saumure scored 27 points on 16 field goal attempts—in Wednesday’s first half, she scored just nine on 3-10 shooting.
After one half of play, TMU led Western 36-24. Bold guard Jayme Foreman led all scorers in the opening half with 12 of her 17 total points coming in the first 20 minutes.
“They kind of struggled to guard on the three-point line,” said Foreman who buried three triples on the night. “They think they’re close but they’re just not close enough.”
The Bold’s success in the first half turned to dominance in the third. Their 12 point lead grew to as many as 21 before Western made a small run to end the third with a score of 53-35 in favour of the Bold.
The fourth was more of the same for TMU. Western was able to cut the lead to 13, but back-to-back buckets from centre Eleanor Jones and Farwell helped hold off any worry from the home crowd.
With the Bold’s next playoff game coming in just three days, the focus turns to being ready for another gruelling affair ahead of TMU’s matchup with the Ravens.
“It’s just rest, recovery and listening to what Carly has to say and just transitioning to that,” said Uwayesu. “Carleton’s a similar team so we’re just coming ready to play and enjoy it.”
Uwayesu used Wednesday night’s contest as a chance to not only advance to the next round but also to highlight an important cause. Uwayesu along with two other members of the Bold knelt during the national anthem.
“I just felt like there’s been a lack of Black History Month initiatives and actions from the athletic department and TMU in general,” said Uwayesu. “Being a black student-athlete—a black woman student-athlete—not seeing that sort of representation and also seeing it at other schools, I feel it doesn’t show who we are and doesn’t go to show our identities.”
“I think for me, having that stance and showing people, ‘hey we are a school that’s changing our name for a reason. We’re doing what we are doing because we are validating the identities of every individual student that we have.’ Showcasing that stance goes to show the individuality of every student-athlete.”
TMU’s playoff run on the way to a national championship last year also went through the Carleton Ravens, only this year, if the Bold hope to return to the Critelli Cup, they’ll have to win in enemy territory.
“We’ve got four or five people that were significant contributors…that had moments in big games last year,” said Clarke. “I think that brings a sense of confidence, composure and trust in what we’re doing.”
UP NEXT: The Bold head to Ottawa for the OUA quarter-finals against the No. 1 Carleton Ravens Feb. 25. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.