Women heat up versus top-ranked McMaster

Basketball playoffs approach

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Before Wednesday’s loss to the Waterloo Warriors, the McMaster Marauders women’s basketball team was the sole unbeaten team in Ontario University Athletics. Saturday, the Western Mustangs will attempt to become the second team to defeat them this season.

The Marauders (17-1) may be the top-ranked women’s basketball team in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, but Mustangs head coach Stephan Barrie thinks Western (14-4) has what it takes to win.

“We’re definitely not intimidated,” Barrie said. “The players look at it as an opportunity and a challenge. They respect Mac and what they’ve done this year, but we know we have the ability to beat them.”

Barrie’s star players agree and say facing an opponent who was undefeated just last week only motivates them more.

“Everyone wants to be the team that knocks McMaster off,” said forward Bess Lennox. “Also, the fact that they’re ranked no. 1 in the country is a huge motivation.”

The Mustangs (14-4) hope to do that Saturday in Hamilton.

“It’s going to be a hell of a battle,” said guard Amanda Anderson. “But if we want it more, the game is ours for the taking.”

Barrie stressed the upcoming game’s importance, adding that, as the season winds down, the pressure to win increases.

“Right now, we don’t feel comfortable with [our place in the OUA standings],” Barrie said. “There are teams that are right behind us that could pass us at any time. We could easily finish fourth very quickly.”

Despite Western’s tenuous position in the OUA’s talent-rich West division, Barrie maintains anything is possible.

“Our advantage against all teams is the fact that we’re taller and we don’t lose athleticism,” he said. “However, we’re going to have to deal with the fact that McMaster is very deep and they’ve got a lot of weapons on the floor.”

Anderson thinks the game will come down to a battle of the boards.

“We’re both top teams in rebounding and, in the end, it will come down to who can win the board game and get more possessions,” she said.

Anderson also doesn’t think McMaster’s home-court advantage will be a factor.

“Home-court advantage doesn’t affect hustle and that intensity to win,” she said. “I think we just have to go out and play as hard as we possibly can.”

Indeed, some Mustangs relish the thought of taking one on the road.

“It’s tough to play away,” Lennox said. “But it’s also sweet to beat a team on its home court.”

A Mustang win would cause a huge power shift in the OUA West. Though Western can’t leapfrog the Marauders in the standings, it would be a huge statement with the postseason looming.

Such a big game couldn’t come at a better time; the Purple and Silver have surged as of late, winning seven straight games.

“It just takes time to adjust to the system on offence and defence,” Barrie said of his relatively young team. “They are starting to get it at a different level.

“We’re also trying to give them more rest in terms of shorter practices and days off, and I think that’s made a difference.”

"with files from James Hayes

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