Our first weekend of OUA West inter-lock play has come and gone and we find ourselves with a 1-1 record. Our goal going into the weekend was to compete hard in both games and come away with at least a split. We accomplished our second goal in getting the split, but fell short of competing up to our potential for two games.
On Friday night we faced a mature and talented WLU team that has played well so far this year including wins against two preseason top ten predicted teams. Laurier's top 7-8 players are big, strong and play with a high level of confidence that will make them tough to beat in the West this year. Starting games has been a challenge for us this year and that issue continued to hinder us as we went down 14-0 off the jump and despite battling back for the remainder of the corner it is extremely difficult to recover from that type of disadvantage so early in the game. The frustration of this is that Laurier did not fool us or make plays that we were not expecting, but rather on 12 of their first 14 points we made fundamental mistakes that can only be attributed to a lack of concentration and likely nerves. Throughout the game we struggled to find any type of offensive rhythm and were badly out rebounded on the night.
On Saturday night we had a chance to redeem ourselves and as coaches we tried to keep the message very simple. The message was just to compete hard for the entire game. I know that sounds simple, however, we have talked to the guys about the fact that it will continue to be difficult to improve our execution and make adjustments in both ends if they are not playing with a high level of concentration and effort. With that in mind the guys came within about 3 minutes of giving us a complete game at this point in the year. We started the game fairly well and played with good intensity and as a result found ourselves ahead 20-18 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was going well until the late stages when Waterloo moved to a zone and we struggled to get organized against it while at the same time allowing that frustration to influence our defensive mindset. In the last few minutes of the quarter Waterloo outscored us badly and went into the half up 14.
At halftime we reinforced that the effort was good and that this allowed us to worry about adjustments and execution. We changed a couple of defensive rotations and assignments and also clarified what exactly we wanted against the zone and headed back out to try and make it a game. The players responded tremendously, both by increasing their level of play and also executing our adjustments nearly flawlessly. In the 3rd we held them to only 7 points while scoring 22 to take a one point lead. In the fourth we continued to defend well only allowing 10 points for a total of 17 second half points and more impressively of those 17 points only two baskets were scored on what we would consider easy shots.
Our defensive effort in the second half showed that there is potential there to stay in ball games every night if we commit to it and also rebound well. I am not sure that the consistency is there yet, however, I do think that the team understands from the weekend that it will be pivotal in our success.
Our three senior guards were very solid on Saturday night as Dan Bannister led us in scoring with 20 points in only his second game since returning from a shoulder separation, Chris Barrett had 15 and handled the ball effectively for most of the game and Tim Boyle provided a sensational second half defensive effort while also recording 9 points and 6 rebounds as well as the game winning free throw. In addition to those players we had strong performances from a number of other players that all provided energy and toughness throughout the game.
We still have a lot of work to do to get to a point where we are going to be competitive with the top teams in the West and East division, however, the players seem committed to giving it their all and as a result we are going to continue to improve.
Thanks to all that attended this weekend. See you in a few weeks when we return home. I will try to post a preview of our games versus Guelph and McMaster later this week.