McMaster takes No.1 team to the limit
The rollercoaster season continues after a weekend of losses for the men’s basketball team.
Following a 82-64 dismantling from the Ottawa Gee-Gees, the players and coaches walked out from the locker room looking lost.
“After Ottawa … that was the lowest spot of the season,” said head coach Amos Connolly. “We felt like we didn’t give ourselves a chance. We just didn’t compete.”
Friday night’s match at Montpetit Hall saw the home debut of an experienced Gee-Gees team, led by fifth-year guard Warren Ward. An energetic crowd gave Ottawa a hop in their step, coming out with 8-0 run to start the game. The run would essentially seal the game with the Marauders never looking like they could win after digging an early hole.
Two fouls in the first 25 seconds allowed McMaster’s Nathan McCarthy to step in to fill the void, and the second-year player put together his finest performance of the season. McCarthy was the lone bright spot of the night, finishing with nine points, five rebounds, and two impressive blocks.
The blowout loss to the OUA East rival did not hamper the team, as the young squad gathered themselves for the next game against the No. 1 team in the country. Mac took the floor at the Raven’s Nest and put together their strongest effort of the season.
“Everyone left there upset with the loss, but very optimistic about what we saw,” Connolly commented. “It was a level of competing that you feel you can build on.”
The previous night was a team of unconfident play, settling for jumpshots and long threes. But against Carleton, the Marauders rose to the occasion and went head-to-head with the CIS champions, losing 100-88.
88 points is the most points the Ravens have allowed in an OUA regular season game since the 2004-05 season. The last team to come close was the Lakehead Thunderwolves, who hung 85 points on Carleton last year.
McMaster came out of the gates with intensity, looking to attack the paint. For the first time all season, Connolly started McCarthy and Taylor Black. The pairing would pay dividends, giving the Marauders length inside to defend Carleton’s big men, Thomas Scrubb and Tyson Hinz.
After a tight first half, with McMaster shocking the crowd with a first quarter lead, the Maroon and Grey found themselves starting the third quarter down nine to arguably the best team in the country. Mac used defense to climb back into the game, forcing turnovers to allow transition buckets.
With a 45-40 scoreboard, the Ravens were forced to call timeout to refocus the team. A revitalized Carleton squad came out of the stoppage looking to draw fouls and get their points at the line.
The referees rewarded their efforts with plenty of whistles and Carleton shot 16 free throw attempts. With a large cushion, the CIS champs took their foot off the gas, allowing Black to step in and take over offensively.
Through a mix of ball screens and pick-and-pops, Black went on an offensive tear. He finished the game with 23 points in only 16 minutes. But the forward’s efforts started a Marauder comeback that would be put to rest by calm offensive execution from Carleton’s Phil Scrubb.
McMaster’s road trip may not have ended with victory, but it was certainly a weekend of growth. The team saw both of their big men have a standout performance for the first time all season. For success going forward, the Marauders needed that to happen sooner than later.
Next up is a home game against Queen’s, who are going through and up-and-down season of their own. After defeating the No. 7 Thunderwolves, the Gaels dropped their next game to the lowly Guelph Gryphons. Connolly will field Black and McCarthy again, hoping to use their size to get back in the win column.
Tip-off is at 8 p.m. in Burridge Gym on Saturday, Nov. 24.