Hamilton, ON- A familiar theme appeared in their latest preseason game. Just when the McMaster Marauders men’s basketball team had taken the lead…they gave it away.
The Marauders were facing the Mercyhurst Lakers (an NCAA Division II school) at home on Oct. 13. They were searching for the second preseason win in familiar situation
McMaster fell behind in the second quarter but clawed back to take a six-point lead in the third. Then, the Lakers went on a run, outscoring McMaster 17-9 in the third quarter on their way to a 64-53 victory.
Yes, the team had competed – as Marauders head coach Patrick Tatham pointed out. However, they also “shot themselves in the foot” with 13 turnovers in the second half after only five in the first half.
Yes, they were missing point guards Tyler Garcia and Tyrrell Miller in the game – as Tatham mentioned. In their place were young guards going through a learning experience.
This wasn’t the first time they’ve squandered a lead recently. It happened during their games in the Manitoba tournament – where they lost to Manitoba, Lakehead and Winnipeg. They had mental lapses, according to guard AY Osunde.
“We just got to be able to execute,” Osunde said. “Just being able to continue to dominate a team rather than take a step back and get relaxed and being able to execute and finish off the game.”
The lapses were evident against Mercyhurst as the Lakers made their fourth quarter run. Up until then, the Marauders were getting back into the game, having outscored their opponents 14-11 in the third quarter.
Osunde was making shots and making plays – one of his first games coming off a knee injury in the offseason. Forward Brendan Amoyaw finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds while fellow big man Ares Culley-Bremner had six points and five rebounds. They switched up their defence into a 2-3 zone, Osunde pointed out.
Then came the turnovers and the Mercyhurst baskets. “Just got careless and complacent and started throwing the ball away,” Osunde noted. Culley-Bremner said sometime when they have a lead, players get comfortable and there’s a lapse in intensity.
How can the team execute better? They talk before the game with the main focus on not turning the ball over. It comes down to details, according to Osunde. It can come when Tatham is drawing up plays.
It comes down to self-discipline and accountability, according to Culley-Bremner. “It’s something that comes from your teammates holding you accountable,” he added. “Also, not getting too down to yourself. It has to be a good balance.”
It also comes down to effort. “We just have to do a way better job as a team just being able to just want it more than the other team and just hold it down,” Osunde said.
The preseason’s been about getting the team’s nine new players acclimated. It’s about gaining experience. The Manitoba game showed Tatham that they could score the ball – putting up 96 points versus Lakehead and 77 points versus Manitoba.
“Those three games show that we do have something there,” Tatham added. “It’s now about the experience. Can we expedite some of the younger guys and get them up to a level where we were last year with an experienced group.”
It’s been tough with that many new players, according to Osunde. A lot of things are being thrown at them. The new players are getting used to the system.
It’s been a comeback for Osunde as well since his off-season injury. He injured his knee in May and didn’t play basketball for a while. He spent his offseason taking care of his body, trying to figure out what he can do to play.
He’s been getting more comfortable as he gets back in the rhythm of things. He’s still getting used to being in game shape – something the offseason rehab can’t quite replicate. He’s been itching to get back on the court.
“I’m just trying to push myself in practice to get back in shape as quickly as possible,” he said. “Take serious time on recovery, mobility and all that stuff so I’m able to last throughout the season.”
As for his team, they’re also ramping up for the regular season. They have one more preseason game – at home against the Calgary Dinos on Oct. 21. The team has made strides but are 1-6 this preseason.
They have to compete and gel as a group, according to Osunde. “Everyone has to be able to lock in on one page,” he added.
“We don’t want to end up on a losing record, you know, just because of a new team,” Osunde noted. “We still have to compete…we can’t be up on a team and have a mental lapse, break down and end up losing the game. We just to be able to continue down and execute.”
Featured Image: Myra Whitfield/McMaster Athletics