Mukendi makes return as Badgers split pair

Jan. 3 marked the return of a familiar face to the Badgers’ line up as senior guard and St. Catharines native Didi Mukendi took the floor against the rival McMaster Marauders at the Bob Davis Gymnasium.
The former Canada Interuniversity Sport Rookie of the Year has dealt with a fair amount of injury problems, missing the entire 2010-11 season and – at least publicly – was not anticipated to return to playing as of the beginning of the year.
With the number 13 now on the back of junior Jameson Tipping (Orangeville, Ont.), Mukendi sported number 6. The comeback brought out fans, friends and family to support the 6’0″ guard. Mukendi looked enthusiastic to take the floor, even jumping up prematurely during the pre-game starting lineup announcements.
Within a few shot attempts, Mukendi shook off the rust, with his first points coming at the 7:54 mark of the first quarter with a breakaway lay in following a steal. The Badgers would go into the first break leading 20-16 with Mukendi hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer. Head Coach Rootes gave Mukendi 28 minutes, playing both the point and working in the two-guard position.
Down low, Mark Gibson (Toronto, Ont.) and the Marauders’ Taylor Black (Stoney Creek, Ont.) would battle in a key matchup as the refs allowed some generous physical play. The balance of calls were against Brock as McMaster had 36 free-throw attempts compared to Brock’s 15.
Brock trailed one point at both half and after 30 minutes. Mukendi hit a long two pointer with 4.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter and made contact with the McMaster defender. The non-call on the contact led to a technical foul being called on Coach Rootes. Mac’s Aaron Redpath (Ajax, Ont.) would nail a three at the buzzer for a 58-57 Marauder lead.
Brock would take the lead early in the fourth, but would be held to 16 points for the quarter. Down by six points with 1:12 remaining, Mukendi drove the lane for an and-one, cutting the score deficit in half. After a pair of McMaster free throws, Mukendi hit a three to make it a one possession game.
From a fan’s perspective, the Jan. 3 Basketball game between the Badgers and Marauders taught me that a non-call on an intentional attempt to foul is more frustrating than a phantom foul call.
Brock would need to foul but rookie guard Rohan Boney (Oakville, Ont.) would miraculously evade the call for a lay in to ice the game. The Marauders would take it 79-73.
C.J. Smith (Scarborough, Ont.) would have an impressive night off the bench with 16 points, four boards, three assists and three steals. Mukendi would score 16, grabbing six rebounds and two steals. Gibson would score 13 points on 6-10 shooting.
The Badgers found redemption on the road in the hostile confines of Western University. Down by 19 points in the opening seven minutes, Brock staged a dramatic comeback over the next 33 minutes. Putting together three double digit runs, including a 21-0 streak in the fourth quarter. Both teams had trouble holding onto the ball as they committed a combined 55 turnovers.
The Badgers shot 53.6 per cent including 10 three pointers, and shot a much improved 85 percent from the charity stripe. Tipping had a massive game, pouring in 32 while adding seven boards and four steals in 38 minutes. Gibson played for almost the entire game, racking up 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and four steals in 39 minutes. Tshing Kasamba (St. Catharines, Ont.) hit five three pointers on his way to a 20 point performance.
The Badgers’ next home game will be Jan. 16 against the Guelph Gryphons. Tip off is at 8:00 p.m. at the Bob Davis Gymnasium, as is tradition. 

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