The vets lead the charge versus Guelph

Smith, Curtis fill the stat sheet and help fill the win column

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Mustangs men's basketball

Jon Purdy

BREAKNECK ACTION. The men’s basketball team played at a frenetic pace against Guelph Saturday, winning 74-62 at Alumni Hall. Guard Matt Curtis scored 10 of his 13 points in the final four minutes.

With Saturday’s men’s baseketball game against Guelph hanging in the balance late in the second half, the Western Mustangs needed their big players to hit some big shots. Fortunately for the Purple and Silver, their veterans answered the call.

Third-year guard Matt Curtis scored 10 of his 13 points in the final four minutes as the Mustangs defeated the Gryphons 74-62 in front of a packed house at Alumni Hall. Western’s Brad Smith also had a big game, leading all players with 18 points and seven rebounds.

With the win, the Mustangs (6-7) climbed into a fourth-place tie with Guelph (6-7) in the Ontario University Athletics West division. Both teams have nine games remaining in their regular season schedules.

Western coach Brad Campbell was among those impressed with his two veterans’ play.

“Brad and Matt played very well for us in the second half,” Campbell said. “They score for us because of their ability to make good decisions in our offence and take high percentage shots.”

The game was closer than the final score suggested. The first half started slowly, with both teams getting into foul trouble. Early in the second half, Gryphons guard Aron Bariagabre caught fire, scoring nine points in the first four minutes to put Guelph ahead. Western responded by giving the ball to Smith, whose work down low drew the ’Stangs into a 50-50 tie with 11 minutes to play.

“I started to learn how to play off of their defensive scheme,” Smith said. “My athleticism helped a little bit too. I was able to elevate over them to get shots.”

With both teams trying to pound the ball inside, the game swung in Western’s favour. Leading by five with three minutes left, the ’Stangs protected their lead with strong foul shooting.

“Our ability to get to the free throw line more than Guelph was a huge factor for us to score points,” Campbell said. “It also indicates we were able to get the ball inside and take advantage of our interior mis matches.”

Western put the ball in Curtis’ hands to stave off a late Guelph charge. The guard sealed the win with a late three.

While Western’s top players made plays down the stretch, Guelph suffered without Bariagabre, who fouled out with four minutes remaining. He led the Gryphons with 14 points.

Foul shooting also played a large role in Western’s win. The Mustangs shot 67 per cent from the line, while Guelph managed only 50 per cent.

Gryphons coach Chris O’Rourke said the abundance of foul calls was frustrating.

“It was a choppy game,” he said. “With all of the whistles and foul shots, there wasn’t a lot of good flow.”

Heading into a two-game set against Lakehead next weekend, the Mustangs look to close in on Brock and McMaster, who are tied for second place with 7-6 records.

“Our league this year is so tight that every single game we play is important,” Campbell said. “Any one victory or loss could be the difference between making the playoffs or hosting a playoff game.”

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