By Alex Chiang
For Western's men's basketball team it is time to get down to business beginning at Laurier. After a sparkling 12-2 preseason record and a top-10 ranking to show for it, the team is ready to fight for the air up there.
"The players have been anxious to start the season and we've been in the starting blocks for a while now," Western head coach Craig Boydell said.
"In Laurier I see a young team that's loose and has nothing to lose. They looked dangerous in the Purple and White [tournament] and have good perimeter shooting."
"Laurier's a young team who's playing very hard despite not having success in the win column," explained guard Brendan Noonan.
Boydell feels the Mustangs can capitalize on Laurier's weaker inside game, where Western has an abundance of talent with the likes of forwards Nigel Rawlins, Chris Webber and Richard Tamminga.
"That's where they'll be vulnerable," he said. "We just have to make sure we avoid their defensive press which they like to run most of the game."
Although he feels a strong offence will make Western national contenders, Boydell suggests the key to Western's success so far can be attributed to an aggressive defence. The offence has taken longer to progress, which Boydell feels is understandable since the players haven't been together for a long time.
Laurier's biggest threat to the Mustangs is forward Greg Sandstrom who averaged close to 20 points a game in the Purple and White, held earlier this month.
"He's a guy to look out for," Noonan said. "He played junior college in the states and can be pretty dangerous."
Boydell said that defensively, the Mustangs will not key in on any specific Golden Hawk player.
Western goes into today's contest below 100 per cent, with Ryan Bell and starting guard Blake Gage nursing injuries. Co-captain Gage suffered an ankle sprain in the Purple and White. He has missed 10 practice days and is doubtful for the match against the Golden Hawks.
"The loss of Gage will hurt the team, but we have good depth and [today's game] should help test it," Boydell said.
Either Hugh Bell or Jason Meskis are likely to start in place of Gage should he be unable to.
Boydell hopes his players won't treat their season opener as an easy victory, with two stronger opponents scheduled to play the Mustangs in the coming week.
"We don't want to look past Laurier, because a loss going into our next two games versus Guelph and McMaster is the last thing we want," Boydell said.
Guelph and McMaster are considered two of the top three teams in the OUAA West division along with Western, so Laurier should pose the easiest challenge in a tough opening schedule. Tonight's tip-off is at 8 p.m. in Waterloo.