Hamilton, ON- Coming off three games in three days at the House-Laughton Tournament in Carleton, the McMaster Marauders were once again tested as they took on the UPEI Panthers back at home on Oct. 22 to close out their preseason. With an 86-69 victory, the Marauder took another step forward toward showing they not only want to get back to the OUA Final Four in 2022-2023, they want to go further.
UPEI was coming off a close AUS semi-finals loss to Dalhousie the previous season. More recently, they came into the game unbeaten, having just defeated the Toronto Metropolitan University Bold a day earlier.
They showed their will early on against the Marauders, getting out to a 27-19 lead after 10 minutes. UPEI was running the floor, getting stops and hitting threes.
They were led by Second-Team All-Canadian guard Elijah Miller’s scoring and playmaking. Guard Dakelle Brooks hit four of his five three-pointers.
As the game went along, the Marauders battled back. Guards Mychael Paulo and Mike Demagus provided scoring while forwards Khalil Miller and Ayres Culley-Bremner took care of the rebounding.
The game pulled into a one-score contest for much of the second and third quarters with the teams exchanging baskets.
McMaster scored nine of the first 12 points in the fourth quarter to give themselves a notable lead and they kept it for the victory.
“By the second half, we started playing defence,” forward Nathan Charles said. “We’re able to ramp up and execute on our possessions.”
The home team shot 63.6 per cent in the fourth compared to 18.2 per cent for the visitors.
“A big emphasis to communicate and know our personnel,” Charles said of their second half defence. “We locked in on [their] shooters because at the beginning…we know who was a shooter but we didn’t execute on it.”
McMaster head coach Patrick Tatham said the team didn’t play their style of play in the first half. He said the second half was much better than the first.
“We took care of the defensive glass and had this one and done mindset on the defensive glass,” he said. “We also found ways to really guard [Elijah Miller]…guys took a little bit more pride trying to guard guys in the half court.”
Miller finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes. He showed his craftiness and scored in a variety of ways.
“You just got to find ways to make shots difficult for him,” Tatham said. “I thought our guys really answered the bell in the second half, taking pride in trying to make every shot that he took difficult.”
Miller scored 13 points in the second quarter, six in the third and none in the fourth. On the other end, the Marauders were making their shots.
Demagus led the team with 21 points while Paulo had 20, despite going off with an injury for a while in the second half before coming back in.
Paulo handled point guard duties and had a team-high five assists. The position is one to watch heading into the season as the Marauders are without OUA All-Star Jordan Henry from last season.
“He just played [the point guard role] the right way today,” Tatham said of Paulo. “He took whatever the defence gave him and it was great, other than a couple of turnovers that he had.”
One theme throughout the preseason was rebounding. It was a common theme in their losses. Against a physical Laval team, they lost the rebounding battle 49-34 (including 11 offensive boards). Against nationals teams Carleton and Victoria, they were beaten on the boards and in the games.
“In order for us to win basketball games, we have to rebound,” Tatham said. They out-rebounded the Concordia Stingers to close out the House-Laughton tournament. Then they out-rebounded the Panthers 34-28, including six to one on the offensive glass. “We got way better in terms of our shot quality and our defensive rebounding,” he added.
It was a team effort. Miller finished with 11 boards while Culley-Bremner and Charles each had five. Guard Tristan Lindo also had four. Nine players in total recorded a rebound.
The game concluded a nine-game preseason for the team. They finished 5-4 against some tough competition – including the Oregon Ducks and aspiring national title contenders.
Tatham has said before he wanted the preseason to be tough. He said they also designed the schedule so the Marauders would have two weeks between the UPEI game and the start of the regular season against the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Nov. 4.
The team will be without NCAA transfer Cashius McNeilly for the start of the season. In the meantime, the focus will be on rejuvenating themselves and getting players healthy, according to Tatham. They plan on scrimmaging one time as well to keep them sharp.
Another focus will be on determining what each player’s role is. “The clear definition of what your role is, is going to be critical going into the regular season,” he noted.
Like the preseason, the Marauders will be tested in the first half of the regular season with games against Ottawa, Carleton, Queen’s, TMU, Brock and Lakehead among others.
“We’ll see what happens. I think we had a really good preseason,” Tatham said. “Could have been better but I’ll take it.”
Featured Image: Colin Wouda/McMaster Athletics