Hamilton, ON- McMaster Marauders guard Mychael Paulo dribbled the ball at the top of the three-point line. He found guard Mike Demagus cutting to the rim. Demagus rose up and threw down a dunk over Brock Badgers forward Jevonnie Scott.
In the moment, Demagus celebrated, going over to the bench. His teammates cheered as well. The Burridge Gym crowd erupted. That dunk took place in the second quarter of a tightly-contested game between the Marauders and the Badgers on Nov. 19.
It was another game in a gauntlet of tough opponents for the McMaster men’s basketball team at the start of the season. After losing to Ottawa, Carleton and Queen’s, the Marauders showed grit and resiliency to beat TMU.
Now this was an opportunity to build upon that. Now, they were facing the defending OUA champion Badgers. Now, they were celebrating after Demagus’ dunk. Now, they were leading 37-36.
The lead would not hold. Brock made some of their own big plays – including an Isaiah Bujdoso three at the halftime buzzer – to go ahead. McMaster would come close at times but not close enough as Brock won 75-67.
Marauders head coach Patrick Tatham credited the team’s energy and compete level throughout the game. He said they got better defensively in the second half as they held the Badgers to 24 points.
Once again, rebounding was a difference maker. Tatham called it their Achilles heel this season. “You got to be able to match the physicality, especially on the glass and in the half court,” Tatham noted. “They’re so physical to the point they killed us on the glass tonight.”
Brock had 39 rebounds to McMaster’s 27. The Badgers had 12 offensive rebounds to the Marauders’ nine.
One factor was Brock’s tendency to shot from outside. “A lot of times we forget that long shots equal long rebounds,” Demagus noted. There were times when Brock hauled in offensive boards after missed threes – including multiple times on one possession late in the game.
“Whenever we don’t box out, that just bites us in the rear,” Demagus added.
Another factor was McMaster’s own missed shots. The Marauders had some good looks but couldn’t bury them – leading to Brock grabbing more rebounds.
“Teams feed off of made baskets and we competed on the defensive end but sometimes it’s deflating when you’re missing three after three after three,” Tatham said. “That starts to wear and tear on you defensively. So, if we made a couple more threes, it probably would be a different game.”
The Marauders shot eight-for-40 from deep (20 per cent). In comparison, the Badgers shot seven-for-24 (29.2 per cent).
Hence, the question should be asked: If the threes aren’t falling, does the team have to change its shot selection?
“In game, we just try to hopefully focus on getting the guys to really trust the shot,” Tatham noted. “If it’s not falling, put a little bit of pressure on the paint. Put a little pressure on the rim and play at the free throw line.”
The Marauders shot 13-for-15 from the free throw line (86.7 per cent) but only shot two free throws combined in the second half.
As for attacking the rim, Demagus made his mark with 11 points. Sefa Otchere had a team-high 13 and Paulo had 11. Forward Khalil Miller added eight points and 11 rebounds.
Demagus is coming off a breakthrough 2021-22 season where he earned an OUA West All-Star nod. He said his role is to score. He did so over Scott for the dunk.
“I know they’ve got a big physical team so I know I have to go up strong and finish and get the two points,” he said.
Now the Marauders will have to get some points and wins themselves as they have four games left in the first half of the OUA regular season. Tatham said they have to win two of those four games – three hopefully.
They have two straight games on the road against Lakehead before visiting Guelph and York. “As long as we can go into the break with two wins in a row, that would be really good for us,” Tatham said.
The Marauders sit at 2-4 – fifth in the OUA Central – having already played nationally-ranked teams in four of their six games. All four were losses. Tatham said their two games against Lakehead will be tough as well.
“It’s good for us to get the good teams out of the way because it only gets harder,” Demagus noted. “Every team is going to put up a fight – from the worst team to the best team. Every team is going to come at us.”
Featured Image: Marisa Settimi/McMaster Athletics