Party just starting for ballers
Second half brings new challenges - Hockey team enters new year undefeated
2001's fearless forecast
Party just starting for ballers
By Joel Brown
You can't go to the big dance if you don't perfect your moves at home.
Western's men's basketball team may know this better than anyone else. Despite sporting a 20-1 record, it's time to prove they can do the same in the Ontario University Athletics West Conference. The challenge begins Saturday in Hamilton against McMaster, the team that defeated the Mustangs in the conference championships and forced Western to sneak into the nationals as a wild card entry last year.
"It's going to be an absolute war," said Western head coach Craig Boydell. "We're playing up there to start with. Plus, both teams have an enormous amount of respect for each other."
Despite transferring from Simon Fraser University, power forward Andy Kwiatkowski is well aware of what this game means to both teams. "We know its going to be a good game," he said. "When we play against Mac it's always huge, we're pretty pumped for it."
"We're starting where we left off [last year]," added McMaster head coach Joe Raso. "Both teams knew they were going to be pretty good coming into the season and now that we're facing each other on the first game of the conference schedule it's going to be huge."
McMaster is again being tabbed as the most likely to block Western's chances of making it back to Halifax. Their strong defence and ball control presents a challenge for the Mustangs, who like to play an up tempo game.
The Marauders are led by the triple guard tandem of Doug Doyle, Rodney Baptiste and Steve Maga, who was a first team All-Canadian last year.
Winning the battle of the guards is essential to McMaster's success according to Raso. He said he also hopes to rebound well at the centre and power forward spots to offset Western's talent at those positions.
Boydell will look to establish control inside with centre Chris Brown and Kwiatkowski. Because of this, Raso said hopes his perimeter offence will open up, allowing small forward Matt Tweedie and the gang to light it up form outside.
"It's hard for us sometimes to get our offensive system going," Boydell said. "Against good defensive teams we're not going to be running wild in the open court. We need to get our quarter-court going."
Raso said he expects the battle to be so tight that key players on both teams will not see any pine time.
Over the Christmas break Western participated in the 43rd Annual Purple and White Tournament. After rolling through Queen's with a 85-37 win and Ottawa by a score of 95 - 64 they faced a stiff challenge from the Laval Rouge et Or. The Mustangs managed to squeeze by with a 78-74 victory.
"We knew the key game was going to be Laval," Boydell said. "They're a very talented team and will probably be ranked after this week. We got the game we thought we would. They're big at key positions and are very athletic."
Kwiatkowski said he believes the narrow win will help the development of the team and keep the players on edge.
"It's good it was so close because needed a tight game to get ready," he said. "Teams are going to get up and make sure they're ready for us since we're the number one team. We got to be ready to play."
Western has not lost since Carleton beat them in the third game of the season.