Men's basketballers end season on high note

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Mustangs men's basketball

Jonas Hrebeniuk

RAINING DOWN ENOUGH THREES TO MAKE JASON KAPONO ENVIOUS. Jason Milliquet and fellow teammate Matt Curtis knocked down 14 three-pointers en route to Western's victory over McMaster last week.

On Saturday, the Western Mustangs men’s basketball squad hosted the McMaster Marauders, defeating them by a final score of 99-87. With two games remaining before the playoffs and boasting an 11-9 record, Western was tied for third place in the West division of Ontario University Athletics.

McMaster, coming off a huge upset of the first place Windsor Lancers to secure a playoff berth, came into the game with hopes of pulling off another unexpected win. But the home side had other plans.

Both teams came out strong, as the game progressed quickly, with Western’s leading scorer Brad Smith taking charge early.

Smith continuously pounded the ball inside, and the Marauders had no answer for the forward. He finished the game with an impressive 31 points on 12-25 shooting.

Western’s biggest asset of the night was its touch from beyond the arc. Perimeter players Jason Milliquet and Matt Curtis put on a show, lighting up the opposition by combining for 14 three-pointers on the night. Milliquet had 21 points, all from downtown, while Curtis scored 27.

Curtis credited the team’s ability to run the floor as a reason for the win.

“We tried to make the game a full-court game, make them run up and down the floor and play our style, which is up-tempo,” Curtis said.

“They are a very big team obviously, they’ve got Mouctar [Diaby], he’s a huge load. Shaq-like.”

Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell echoed those sentiments.

“Mac’s obviously got a good interior game as well. Teams are going to take away things from other teams, and they took away our interior game,” he said. “I think the three was left open for us, and we made a heck of a lot of them. When Jason and Matt are going to combine for 14 threes in the game, we’re going to be pretty tough to beat.”

McMaster assistant coach Jeff Joseph wasn’t as thrilled about the game’s outcome.

“We know we can beat any team on any day, but tonight we showed we can lose to any team,” he said. “Western played great though, they shot unreal from the three-point line.”

The ’Stangs lead stretched to 21 with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter, and they never looked back. Campbell was pleased with the effort his team put forth.

“I felt this was close to a must-win for us, maybe not an absolute must, and I think our guys reacted. We played with a lot of energy, we played hard and we shot the ball very well.”

With the final game of the regular season looming against the Guelph Gryphons, Curtis stressed the importance of one last win heading into the postseason.

“We really want that home-court playoff game. Our eventual goal is to be OUA champions, so a home-court game really sets us up well for that,” he said.

When asked how he and his team will maintain mental toughness into the playoffs, Curtis said the process has become routine.

“We’ve been playing like it’s the playoffs for the last couple games now,” he said. “Our league’s so tight you can’t drop a game here or there and hope to make it up because you’ll run out of games before the playoffs. So we just have to treat every game like it’s a playoff game and just go from there.”

Campbell and his staff have a lot of homework to do if they plan on bringing home the championship, but he believes his men are up to the task.

“I think we have the potential to do so. When we play well, we’re very difficult to beat,” he said. “Our league’s very good and there are some tough teams, but overall we match up very well with the teams in our league. So it’s not out of the realm of our thinking.”

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