Hawks lose momentum on the road to the playoffs

Photo by Sadman Sakib Rahman

When the season began, the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s basketball team had plenty of buzz for all the additions that had been made to go along with the young talent that was already on the roster.

Going 3-7 to start the year, unable to match the hype, the question became whether they’ll find it in them to meet the buzz.

With the coming of the New Year bringing a 6-2 start, their next challenge was how they’d compete against upper echelon teams. That began with the no. 2 ranked Brock Badgers who made a visit to Waterloo on Wednesday.

The way you start is everything in any big matchup and the way the Golden Hawks began was one worthy of remembering for future reference as to how you want to start. With the game-plan being, “don’t turn it over and compete on the glass,” coach Serresse’s team got to work.

Applying pressure on the defensive end and forcing turnovers, Laurier had Brock shook.

After finishing the first quarter up four points, the Hawks continued to raise the intensity limiting Brock to 29 per cent shooting from the field. In comparison, the Hawks shot 48 per cent, going into halftime up 37-28.

“First half, we don’t turn it over, we’re playing great, with great pace. Seems like we were getting out, I was very impressed with our first half. We were very comfortable, they were pressuring us but we handled it well, we didn’t panic,” head coach Justin Serresse said.

The second half was a completely different story as Brock opened it up with a 13-0 run to take the lead and in the process holding Laurier scoreless for the first 4:13 of the third quarter. From that point forth, Laurier kept it close but were incapable of taking the lead.

This continued as Brock slowly started increasing their lead, at one point leading by ten with less than 2:30 left in the game. It was on from there as Laurier, behind a career-night by Ali Sow (31 points, 21 in the second half) surged to cut the lead to three points with 30 seconds left.

With six seconds left, still down three, Laurier lost possession just after their inbound, with an absurd call by the referees on Matt Minutillo which returned possession to Brock where they hit one more free throw to end the game with a final score of 73-69.

“They came out in the third quarter and they kind of increased the intensity, but we panicked. Really, just not coming out of the gate in the third with the same type of aggressiveness and confidence,” coach Serresse said.

Next up on the schedule was a rematch with the Windsor Lancers for the #3 spot in the OUA West with both teams entering the matchup at 9-10.

In the first game, Windsor had a little more trouble hitting their shot from outside. To say the least, the narrative was not the same on Friday night.

Laurier coming off the tough loss against Brock, did not seem like themselves, especially on defense.

“Our goal was to dominate the rebounding and protect the three-point line or try our best to challenge every shot, which we didn’t finish, which was disappointing,” coach Serresse said.

With Windsor able to hold a healthy lead throughout the first half and some of the third, the narrative of this game changed just past the halfway point in the third quarter. Down 13, Laurier made a 17-4 run to close the quarter and go up 64-62.

Windsor, unlike the first matchup between these squads, managed to close this one out though. Quickly taking the lead within the first couple of minutes, the Lancers went on to push their lead to 11 at one point as Laurier was not able to do anything about the offensive show Windsor put on. Shooting 46.2 per cent from the field and 40.6 per cent from three, Windsor managed to avenge their loss from weeks ago.

“Overall, I was disappointed with the urgency and the effort. We didn’t contest as many shots as we’re capable of. Our defense was low, we didn’t have each other’s back, we didn’t rotate; just no urgency,” coach Serresse said post-game.

Next up for Laurier is a rematch against Western on Feb. 7 at the University of Waterloo.

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