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Voyageurs tip off against York in men's quarter-finals

By: Randy Pascal – Playback

 | Feb 19, 2014 - 3:44 PM |
There is a recurring pattern at work that the Laurentian Voyageurs men's basketball team would only half-heartedly wish to continue.

For the third straight year, coach Shawn Swords and company will host a home playoff game. Given the team's noticeably better play within the friendly confines of the Ben Avery Gym, relative to their up-and-down output on the road, being at home is huge.

But in both 2012 and 2013, the Voyageurs followed up playoff home wins with losses in Carleton, eliminating them from post-season action. With that likelihood looming should Laurentian get past the York Lions tonight, there is at least part of this script the northern hardcourt crew would love to rewrite.

The Voyageurs secured home-court advantage in the OUA East quarter-finals after posting a record of 12-10 in 2013-2014, with some parallels in place to the past two campaigns.

"Similar to some other years, we won some games that maybe people didn't think that we should have won, and we lost a couple of games that we shouldn't have," said Swords after practice on Tuesday.

"This year, I think it happened later in the season, where in previous years, it happened in November."

Not surprisingly, at least part of that contrast matches perfectly with whether or not the LU point total is being displayed on the "home" or "visitor" side of the scoreboard.

"We struggled on the road this year," noted graduating guard Josh Budd. "At home, we've beat two top 10 programs in Ryerson and McMaster. I think we're pretty confident right now."

Part of that comfort comes from knowing exactly what components of the game will be key in facing York, a team that differs dramatically from Laurentian. "Rebounding," said Swords without the least bit of hesitation.

"They (York) are one of the biggest and most athletic teams in the CIS. Rebounding is the key for most of our games, because we are smaller than most teams. But this game more than ever, we can't let them get second chance points.

"With our team, all five guys need to make sure their man isn't going for the rebound, and then we have to come in hard for the boards."

At the other end of the court, Budd sees the first-round playoff matchup as one that presents opportunities for him and his mates.

"When we get out, pressure the ball, create turnovers, get up and down the court, we're a good team," said Budd. "And we share the ball well. We've also shot well this year. We can get up into their guards, we can apply ball pressure, which we want to do."

On a team loaded with youth, Budd is the only Voyageur who completes his fifth year of university eligibility this season, a fact not lost, in the least, on the native of Timmins.

"There were times, this year, where I did feel the pressure of it being my last CIS games," he said. "I just want to make sure I keep bringing everything I have, leaving everything on the court. I don't think that's going to be hard for me — that's how I play basketball."

The Voyageurs and Lions tip off at 8 p.m. tonight, with the winner moving on to the divisional semifinals, on the road, on Saturday.

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