Mustangs steal "Thunder" from Lakehead Wolves
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Mustangs steal "Thunder" from Lakehead Wolves
By Mike Murphy
AC/DC made it big in the '80s with "Thunderstruck" that's also a good description of how the University of Lakehead women's basketball team must have felt after Western rumbled through their gym to two resounding victories in two nights.
The Mustangs routed the Thunderwolves Friday 77-49, then treated them to a repeat performance the next night by trouncing them 76-51.
Bob Delaney, head coach of the Mustangs, said he was satisfied with his team's play. "I was very pleased," he commented. "Over the years it's been difficult to win both games up there. The crowds are very noisy. They're different from anything our players encounter in southwestern Ontario. They're exuberant."
Sanders Fieldhouse, where the games took place, is known to locals as the Thunderdome. It features big fan turnouts and a certain cheering section aptly named "heckler's row," located right behind the visiting team's bench.
According to Western point guard Cindy Scott, the inventive inhabitants of the row pulled out all the stops in their attempts to get the Mustangs off their game.
"Because we beat them so badly the first night, the people in heckler's row came up with a hustle board before the Saturday game," she said. "They explained it all to Bob [Delaney] before the game they said we'd get a certain number of hustle points for certain plays. They had it all worked out."
Try as they might, though, the sidelines could not change what was happening on the floor. Led by the lethal shooting of veteran guard Laura Verbeeten, who scored over 20 points in both games, the Mustangs proved they had too much firepower to be resisted.
"We had a distinct advantage in talent, I think," Delaney said.
Lakehead head coach Bob Main said despite the lopsided scores, the games still represent an improvement for his team. "When we played Western in November, they beat us by 40 points. We played better individually and showed an improvement from that game. In the second half of both games we played even up with them," he said.
Main added his squad concentrated on defence and hoped to beat the Mustangs by defending well and controlling the pace. "We were more concerned with defence than offence," he said. "Offensively our [game plan] was to stall and take the air out of the ball and keep pressure on the other end of the court."
Strategy aside, fundamentals were a problem for the Thunderwolves, who often failed to capitalize on their trips to the free throw line. "At the foul line, we were brutal," Main said. "We went 14 for 35 on Friday. It could have helped if we shot our normal 70 per cent."
As for the fan support his team received, Main said he was impressed. "An excellent crowd turned out both nights. The crowd was great and heckler's row does a good job, but [Delaney] handled them well," he said.
With the two wins in Thunder Bay, Western improved their conference record to 11-2. Only eight regular season games remain for the Mustangs, who will see action tonight against Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.
By Mike Murphy
The men's basketball team took a northern hunting trip this weekend and came back to London with a couple of Thunderwolf carcasses to show for it.
Braving the frozen wastes of Thunder Bay, the Mustangs preyed on the University of Lakehead Thunderwolves for back-to-back victories an 83-71 win Friday night and a 70-67 triumph on Saturday.
According to Western head coach Craig Boydell, playing at Lakehead's gym is anything but an ordinary experience. Boydell said he enjoyed the capacity crowd atmosphere, right down to the jeers and quips he heard from "heckler's row," the club which sits behind the visiting bench at every Lakehead home game.
"We work hard at making it non-distracting," an amused Boydell said. "Of course, on every possession you have the crowd counting down the shot clock incorrectly and every time a player comes to the bench they're quoting his stats at him."
Spectator antics aside, he said the Thunderwolves were a force to be reckoned with. "It was a good test. The team we played up there was the best team we've played in conference [play]. This was a tough place to play. But the toughest thing is that they've really gelled as a team in the past month."
While Western won Friday's game by a comfortable 12 point margin, Saturday's contest proved much closer. Lakehead led by four at halftime and preserved their lead for most of the second, only to let it slip away, as they faltered at the foul line and gave up crucial three-pointers.
Lakehead coach Lou Pero said his team let one get away Saturday. "We did a good job on defence versus their tough players. We probably could have won the game on Saturday. We missed free throws late in the game that could have won it for us," he said.
The disappointing loss notwithstanding, Pero still thought it was a great night of basketball. "It was loud and exciting. It was a tough defensive game our kids played physical, like it was a playoff game, because every possession was important."
Western's second-year point guard, Jim Grozelle, said he had not previously played in Thunder Bay and his introduction to the Thunderdome was memorable. "It's one of the best places I've ever played in it was packed."
Considering the two game series as a whole, Boydell said he was quite pleased. "Getting out of there with two wins, given the competition and the intensity, is very satisfying."
Boydell also said the games with Lakehead were educational for his team, which strives to learn from its mistakes. "This is not a team of egos and illusions. We know that, as well as we've played at times, we still need to be improving."
Improving their conference record to 6-1 will be the Mustangs' aim this Wednesday, when they play Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.