The first of 19 regular season games is now in the books for Brock Men’s Basketball. It wasn’t the cleanest of games: shooting 32.3 per cent from the field and turning the ball over 20 times. But that wasn’t enough to stop the team from talking about their goal to be playing into March as they take the regular season with a game-by-game approach.
“We are one game at a time right now,” said head coach Charles Kissi following the Badgers 71-69 home opener victory over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. “We know we are playing for March, but we are just one game at a time.”
That’s exactly how the Badgers will have to look at their season. Game two will be Wednesday night and it’ll already be considered the biggest test of the season — in fact the next five games for the men will be the biggest stretch of games the 2016-2017 season will bring. It’ll start with a trip to Hamilton to play divisional rival McMaster — who was ranked third in the country for week one — that game will be followed by Guelph, another divisional matchup; then McMaster again; then number one ranked Carleton; and 2016 will conclude with a game versus number five ranked Ottawa.
“It’s perfect for us. It’s what we need,” said Kissi. “We want to play the best teams every night.”
However, to play in March and to compete against the best teams Brock must play at a high level. Their performance against the Varsity Blues won’t cut it against McMaster, Carleton or
Ottawa. It took the Badgers almost three minutes to get their first basket and it took more than half the quarter to hit double digits.
“I think it plays a little bit into the flow, we couldn’t get into,” Kissi explained about having three weeks off — Toronto had already played two regular season games heading into the Saturday night game. “It doesn’t matter what records were last year, [Toronto] is a very good team and we didn’t do our job defensively in that fourth quarter.”
Toronto scored 30 of their 69 points in the final quarter. They looked like a team that was going to complete a comeback in the final five minutes, but sloppy turnovers by both teams allowed Brock to hold on for the victory.
Ryan Bennett led the Badgers with 20 points on 7-12 shooting. Rookie Daniel Cayer added 12 points and nine rebounds and star player Dani Elgadi was held to 10 points as he fouled out late in the fourth.
“I’ve got used to a new system, playing with new guys,” said Bennett, who transferred to Brock last season but never really found his rhythm with the team in year one. “Our chemistry has got a lot better since last year.”
The attention now turns to the McMaster Marauders for Brock. The Badgers will need a short memory and hope they can find their offense with much more crisp passes and the ability to hit easy shots.
The Marauders will enter Wednesday night with a 2-0 record, both wins coming against Lakehead. The scores were close in both games (82-76 and 62-56), so one would think either McMaster isn’t living up to their expectations or Lakehead is a much more improved team.
Last year the Badgers and Marauders split their two meetings with Brock winning the first game of the season over McMaster in Hamilton and McMaster getting a late season win over Brock in St. Catharines.
This season the Marauders are a young team with 13 of their 19 players being first or second year players. Against Lakehead they were led by fourth year guard Rohan Boney, who averaged 18 points during the two games. Third year players Connor Gilmore and David McCulloch have also been standout players for the Marauders.
It’ll only be game two for the Badgers, but the pressure is there. To be able to keep their name as a contender for March, Brock doesn’t have to beat McMaster but show they can compete.
“I don’t think anything defines us,” said Bennett looking ahead to McMaster. “We have to wait for the entire season to play out to really see who we are.”
The schedule makers for OUA basketball weren’t friendly with Brock this season, but the next five games, as much as the Badgers won’t admit it, may not define who they are as a team, but it could very well define their season.