Our man in the middle of nowhere had a fun Friday night at the Thunderdome...
The biggest men’s basketball home game in Lakehead University history did not disappoint as the undefeated Thunderwolves scored a thrilling 76-73 comeback win over the No. 1 Carleton Ravens at the Thunderdome Friday night in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The win puts Lakehead’s record at 7-0 and keeps them in first place in the OUA West; two games ahead of No. 3 McMaster, Western, and Windsor; all with 5-2 records. The loss puts Carleton’s record at 6-1; atop the OUA East one game ahead of Ottawa who scored a big win of their own Friday night in Hamilton over McMaster.
Note: I have posted a post-game coach interviews video HERE
Before I give my thoughts on tonight's Lakehead v. Carleton game; I am going to tell you where I'm coming from. I was the Sports Information Director at Lakehead for eight years and I consider Lakehead Head Coach Scott Morrison a good friend. The men’s hoops squad is the only Wolves team that remains near and dear to my heart as I watched Coach Morrison and the programme through some very lean years. So, I am very happy that the team is heading in a positive direction.
However, I am a proud alumnus of Carleton University and a great fan of the team and a great admirer of Head Coach Dave Smart. So, at tonight’s game I had my Lakehead Thunderwolves Fall jacket on (one of the very few benefits I ever received as SID); but I also had my very old Carleton Panda game t-shirt on; closest to my heart. (Now there’s a reference to the wildest event in Canadian sports history; think Grey Cup meets Mardi Gras meets Woodstock meets Gladiator; and that kind of sums up the Panda game; there was nothing like it in the whole world of sports and still isn’t).
During Friday's game; I applauded great plays by both teams; which drew strange looks from some Lakehead fans around me; me with my Wolves jacket on; they weren’t quite sure why I was clapping for a beautiful 3-point shot by a Ravens player.
So, for me, tonight’s game was win-win; whatever the result. I guess you could say I am biased for both teams. I was hoping for a close exciting game; and that’s what I and the many many fans jammed into the Thunderdome got.
I am not going to write a game story; as that can be obtained by Thunder Bay Media online, the Lakehead or Carleton websites, or by the great game stories written by Joe Scanlan (my old Journalism prof); who covers the Ravens and travels with the team.
My Thoughts on The Game:
- The men’s game was set up by the earlier and exciting women’s game which saw Carleton win in OT; the Lakehead women’s third loss in OT; they have a 3-3 record.
- More fans poured in for the men’s game until all seats were full and the large upper level mezzanine around the Thunderdome was also completely packed; two or three deep in some places.
- The old fan traditions are back at Lakehead with Hecklers row in full force, “boring” being chanted by the crowd when the other team’s players are introduced, and the traditional tearing of the Lakehead student newspaper and throwing the resulting confetti in the air when the Wolves get their first basket. The fans were great all night long; even when the Wolves were struggling in the first half.
- The Thunderwolves again came from behind; which they have done in six of their seven wins. So far this season; their pattern is to start slow and fall behind; and then they slowly seem to adjust to the other team in the second and third quarter and then make a charge.
- Along those lines; Carleton was up by 10 at the half and seemed in control but the game began to change in the third before the exciting final quarter.
- Lakehead does seem to have quite a bit of depth and there really doesn’t seem to be much drop-off between their top 10 players. Lakehead again got scoring from lots of players.
- Carleton played some pretty ferocious defense; fouls hurt them in the second half and especially late in the game. Lakehead’s defense really picked up in the second half.
- Both teams were sloppy at times; with the Wolves committing 21 turnovers and Carleton 18. Carleton had 14 steals to Lakehead’s 5. The Ravens capitalized with 33 points off turnovers to Lakehead’s 18.
- The Raven’s Willy Manigat was very quick Friday night; picking the Wolves pockets 6 times. Lakehead’s Greg Carter may be faster (6 points, 7 assists, a block, and a steal) and is developing into a great all-around guard.
- Lakehead freshman Ryan Thomson was cool as a cucumber and his play, along with Joe Jones from Baltimore led the Lakehead comeback. If Thomson continues playing like this; OUA Rookie of the Year is a possibility. Jones is a real find; a fierce two-way competitor who is rapidly becoming a team leader for the Wolves.
- Carleton’s Elliot Thompson was fantastic with 8 boards and a game-high 25 points and he has a beautiful three point stroke (3-5 from beyond the arc).
- Lakehead’s Yoosrie Salhia was also fantastic; helping lead the Wolves comeback charge with 18 points and 8 boards. I think he is one of the best players in the CIS; let alone the OUA; a 6’ 5” post/forward who can dominate a game when he gets his back to the basket and vacuuming up the rebounds. Salhia; not a great free throw shooter (5-8 on the night), also coolly hit his first of two foul shots to give Lakehead the final three-point lead at the end of the game; forcing Carleton to try and hit a trey in the final seconds to put the game into OT.
- The Ravens Tyson Hinz can also really shoot the ball; (11 points on 4-5 shooting) I think he should shoot more.
- Lakehead sophomore post Brendan King is adjusting to the CIS and he is going to be a very good player; 11 points and a block on the night. Wolves Freshman Matt Nagy (Bentonville, Arkansas) also showed some flashes.
- Carleton’s Kevin McCleery is a very good player. I enjoyed watching his hard-nosed style of play.
- I had the pleasure of standing in the mezzanine and watching the game with former OUA referee Wally Peterson. It was fascinating getting his insight into how the game was called as the game was in progress.
- It was also fascinating watching Coach Smart coach a game live. Also interesting to see how Lakehead Coach Morrison has progressed in his coaching style; still fiery; but maybe only 11 on the amp scale (Spinal Tap reference) compared to his previous 20. At age 32, he is already in his seventh season as a head coach.
- Carleton continues their tough road trip with a vist to Hamilton Saturday night as they take on the McMaster Marauders. That should be a great game as both teams will be in bad moods.
- Saturday night at the Thunderdome presents another marquee matchup as Lakehead will put their undefeated record on the line against a very strong Ottawa Gee Gees squad; fresh off their big road win over Mac.
- Basketball is back in Thunder Bay!