Hamilton, ON- After a couple of close first quarters in their previous two games, the McMaster Marauders men’s basketball team rode a quick start to an 86-54 victory over the visiting Mount Royal Cougars on Oct. 13.
The Marauders are about halfway through their preseason slate with varying results. They lost to Oregon in August before beating Redeemer. They lost to a physical Laval team and beat a strong St.Fx squad a week later.
Against Mount Royal, they started off hot. Transfer Cashius McNeilly hit three straight threes before Mychael Paulo also splashed a triple, leading to a 12-0 lead and a Mount Royal timeout.
The Marauders made plays defensively as well by forcing turnovers that led to fast break opportunities. “Our pressure on defence was amazing, on ball,” McMaster head coach Patrick Tatham noted. He said their defence is based on taking away easy reversal passes.
As the first quarter progressed, McMaster kept making stops and scoring. Paulo, McNeilly and Otchere scored inside. The three-pointers were falling as they shot six-for-six in the first quarter. Ball movement was a key part of that.
“I think we’re doing a very good job sharing the ball, looking for each other,” Tatham said. “A lot of times when we collapse the defence and get to the paint, we find the right kick out, we’re getting some wide open looks.”
The Marauders swung the ball around multiple times for an open shot. By the end of the first 10 minutes, the home team led 39-15. While their scoring slowed down in the following quarters, they kept a notable lead.
As the game went along, different Marauder players saw the court. Almost every player played at least 12 minutes. Thirteen players scored and 12 players had at least one rebound. They had 50 rebounds to Mount Royal’s 33. The team was also without OUA All-star Mike Demagus for the game.
Defensively, they held the Cougars to 21.1 per cent shooting from the field and 12 per cent from deep. Tatham said they brought the defensive energy. First-year forward Brendan Amoyaw said they’ve been getting more on the same page defensively with their coverages.
Amoyaw was one of three first-year players who played. Guard Tyler Garcia had 10 points, two assists and three rebounds. Garcia ran the offence at times, weaving through defenders and scoring in the paint. Thomas Matsell had four points and two rebounds playing in his first career home game. Amoyaw had six points and six rebounds going up against Mount Royal’s forwards, battling in the paint.
Tatham called it a good development game for the first-year players. “I thought they got real good experience to see what it’s like at the U SPORTS level,” he added. “They’re going to continue to get more reps…down the line, we’re going to need them when we play this rigorous OUA schedule.”
Tatham said a big part of the transition to university basketball is getting consistency.
“They just got to be as consistent as they possibly can from practice to into an actual game,” he noted. “They look great in practice. They figure things out in a game and if they can be consistent in both aspects, they’ll have really good careers here. They’re going to have really good careers regardless but as soon as they can figure out how to be consistent, they’re going to be really good.”
Amoyaw played for Lincoln Prep (based in Hamilton) as well as for the Canadian U-18 team in the FIBA Americas this past summer, winning a bronze medal. He said academics played a big role in his decision to go to McMaster. The Winnipeg native is studying Health Science.
He pointed how it’s “a really exclusive program” and how it fit his learning style. “I have a lot of education and basketball goals that I want to reach,” he said. “I feel like McMaster’s a really good place to make it happen, especially on the academic side.” On and off the court, he’s learning.
He called it a tough transition managing his schoolwork load and adapting to a new school and new team. He cited the increased physicality of the game compared to high school.
Amoyaw and his teammates now travel to Ottawa to take place in the House-Laughton tournament this weekend. They will face Concordia, Carleton and Victoria – three tough teams. It will be a test to see how the Marauders match up against teams that have won conference and national championships.
Add in the Mount Royal game and the Marauders are playing four games in five days. The House-Laughton games are three days in a row. Tatham said the format mimics the schedule at the Final 8. They play Victoria on Friday, Carleton on Saturday and Concordia on Sunday.
“The guys are going to have to fight. They’re going to have to dog it out a little bit on Friday,” he said. “Those two games [against Carleton, Victoria] will really almost prepare us for hopefully being able to be at nationals.”
Featured Image: McMaster Athletics