We’re nearing the playoffs and the OUA West is starting to thin out a bit, but there are four teams still challenging for top spot. Windsor and McMaster have kept up with one another and are tied for third, while Lakehead and Laurier went head-to-head this past week for top spot in the West with neither team able to gain ground on the other. In the top ten post from last weekend, Rob briefly covered the Lakehead (No. 3) and Laurier (No. 7) series. He also has some fun facts and stats that are worth a read.
Friday, January 13
Lakehead 88, Laurier 83
Games with hype don’t usually live up to it. The Lakehead-Laurier weekend lived up to the expectation and so much more. On Friday night Lakehead went point-for-point with Laurier, which most would agree have the best offence in the West. Both Lakehead and Laurier finished with four players in double digits in a game where defence was at a premium. The Thunderwolves' Venzal Russell tied a game high 24 points, but also a less than impressive 9-28 from the field and 0-6 on threes. Yoosrie Salhia had a game high 11 rebounds and was a defensive frustration for Laurier inside the paint all night long. Laurier's Kale Harrison ended the night with 24 points and 7 rebounds — all defensive. Throughout the game neither team was able to run away with it, with the game coming right down to the end. Laurier was within three points for the last three minutes before Lakehead put it away with a pair of free throws by Russell.
Saturday, January 14
Lakehead 89 vs. Laurier 92
Both teams picked up right where they left off from the night before. Lakehead had six players in double digits to Laurier’s four. On Saturday, though, it wasn’t all up to Harrison since he had some help from Conor Meschino and Matt Buckley, who finished with 16 and 14 points respectively. Laurier jumped off to the quick lead after the first quarter ahead 24-18, but Lakehead slowly nicked away at that. One of the key factors was Laurier’s bench, who put up 34 points to 15 by Lakehead. Even though all of the Thunderwolves starters hit double digits, you need better contribution from the bench.
Wednesday, January 11
McMaster 103 vs. Brock 91
Something lit a fire under Victor Raso coming into this game. With 29 points and 5 rebounds, he led the way for McMaster in a high-scoring affair against Brock, while Adam Presutti had 18 points for the Marauders. Tshing Kasamba came off the bench for 19 points and 6 defensive boards. This was the start for another bad week for Brock, who lost again and stumbled further down the standings in the West.
Saturday, January 14
Windsor 78, McMaster 74
The first half killed McMaster in this one. Windsor went into the half leading 48-31, with the Lancers up by 20 at one point. Six Windsor players had 10 or more points and Enrico Di Loreto finished with 17 points going 5-8 on field goals and an impressive 4-6 on threes. Although, you expect good numbers from the fifth best scorer in the CIS. More importantly, it helped Windsor keep pace in the West and remain tied for third with a 9-3 record. Presutti finished with a game high 20 points for the Marauders.
Saturday, January 14
Western 101 vs. Brock 93
Western has one of the youngest teams in the CIS and they grew up in a big way with this game. Five players finished with 13 or more points with Ryan Barbeau and Quinn Henderson each getting 21. This could be a sign of things to come for Western, who look to be building chemistry as a team. Although their season will finish soon, I imagine teams are going to be more cautious with Western looking to play the role of spoiler. Kasamba had 19 points and six steals for Brock. The Badgers have had a tough start to the year going 1-3 and falling out of contention for the West. Though they’re still 7-5, it’s going to be hard to gain ground on Lakehead and Laurier.
Player of the Week
Ryan Barbeau - Western Mustangs
Barbeau has been lights out for Western all year. He’s ranked sixth in the CIS with 20.7 ppg and has been the best player for Western this year, by far. On Wednesday night against Guelph, he put up 31 points to go with 3 rebounds and 3 assists. The next highest scorer for Western that game? Well, it was Charlie Drouin with 8 points. That pretty much sums up Western this year. On Saturday against Brock, Barbeau actually had some offensive help from his teammates as he finished with 21 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists. Western may be building for the future, but the young players have benefitted from watching Barbeau all season long.
Upcoming Game of the Week
Friday, January 20 and Saturday, January 21
McMaster at Lakehead
Thanks to the split between Laurier and Lakehead, McMaster is only one game behind both teams in the West. McMaster, though, went 1-1 themselves last weekend, beating Brock but falling to Windsor (who they’re tied with). If Mac hopes to keep pace and challenge for top in the West, they’ll have to get at least a split in Lakehead. That’s easier said than done with Lakehead being 5-1 at home this year, 23-5 the last three years, and eager to keep their top spot. I wouldn’t be surprised for two close games, but I think a Lakehead sweep will put McMaster in a battle for third with only a few weeks left in the regular season.