Toronto, ON- It seems apt that the McMaster men’s basketball’s 83-78 loss to the TMU Bold would go down to the very end. It’s what the Marauders have been accustomed to throughout this season.
Now, late in the regular season as they jostled for playoff position, the Marauders were facing a strong TMU squad on Feb. 11. A Bold squad that had won three of their past four games. A Bold squad ahead of them in the standings.
The game started promising for McMaster, with them getting out to a 18-9 lead. Mike Demagus and Khalil Miller scored inside. It was a reverse from their low-scoring first half against the Toronto Varsity Blues the previous evening – a 66-51 defeat.
Forward Nathan Charles credited the quick start to their energy and trust in one another. “We’re ready to go, push it in transition,” he noted. “Doing all the things like trusting one another, making one more pass and playing as a team.”
Marauders head coach Patrick Tatham mentioned how well they moved the ball, going from side to side at times to get good looks.
Then, TMU made their run, taking the lead themselves later in the second quarter. The Bold led 39-33 at halftime. Physicality was a key element of that.
TMU forward Aaron Rhooms had a team-high 25 points, nine rebounds and three steals. The former Scarborough Shooting Star scored in the paint and knocked down a three.
Tatham said the Bold were more physical. It was evident on drives, rebounds, passes…everything, he concluded. The Marauders turned the ball over 22 times to the Bold’s 19.
As the game went along, the Bold increased their physicality. McMaster would keep it close in the second half, even cutting it to within three points. However, the Marauders turned it over late, sealing the 83-79 game.
With the ups during the game came the downs. “We had spurts of good moments but we couldn’t put it together for a full 40 minutes,” Charles noted.
In terms of physicality, there’s also room for improvement. Charles talked about needing to hit the glass together.
“At some points, we could have got more physical, push some people around,” he added. “Instead of thinking that we’re going to get a foul, just try and finish it.”
Tatham said their work comes from pointing moments out on film where they could have been more physical and emphasizing that.
“Hey, look, at this point in time right here, we weren’t physical, we lost the physicality battle,” he cited as an example. “You’re going to see this again at some point in time. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready for us to embrace the physicality of that point.”
A silver lining from the loss is it being a physical, intense playoff-like game. The Marauders have already clinched a playoff spot and are currently tenth place with a 10-10 record (after forfeiting their win over Algoma).
They’ve been in close games against other playoff teams recently with varying results. McMaster beat Western and Laurier. They lost on a last-second basket on the road in Windsor. They played defending OUA champion Brock close. Now they’ve played TMU close after beating them earlier in the season.
The McMaster Marauders host Waterloo and Toronto to close out the regular season. They could stay in the 10 seed or fall to 11 or 12 depending on the results.
These games and the learning experiences that come with them are all about preparation for playoffs. “Win one, you can dance,” Tatham said. “Right now, it’s just trying to figure out how to be physically tough but also mentally tough.”
Perhaps there could still be a boost awaiting them. The team has been without guard Cashius McNeilly, who’s been out with a back injury. Tatham said they’re hoping they have him back for playoffs. McNeilly would provide offensive depth, having averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in five games this season.
Given the results so far, Charles said the season’s been alright but could have been better. The focus is on winning the next game.
“We just need to look forward to the next game, win that and go on a roll from there,” he noted. “We need to win one and then keep on going.”
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics