After starting the new year off on a five-game road trip, the Badgers came back to Brock to play their first two home games in nearly two months.
“I feel like we’ve been on a bus for a month at this point,” joked Badgers star Melissa Tatti. “It’s nice to be at home, but honestly I feel like we’re uncomfortable in our own gym right now because we haven’t played here in so long.”
Comfortable or not, the Badgers showed no signs of rust as they walloped the last-place Thunderbirds 59-35 in their first of two games. They held Algoma to 10-of-55 shooting, allowed no more than 11 points in a quarter and only one Thunderbird scored in double digits.
Kristin Gallant led the way for Brock with 17 points and six rebounds, and thanks to the large lead for the Badgers, head coach Mike Rao was able to give both Gallant and Tatti some much needed rest. With his two stars off the floor for significant stretches, the Badgers saw contributions from numerous reserves that helped preserve and eventually extend the lead.
“[The bench] played awesome, they gave us some good minutes. These are the games that we can build on, and learn how to play as a team,” said Tatti.
Game two against the very same Thunderbirds got out to an extremely slow start — like molasses mixed with cement slow — as the score after the first quarter was tied at four. It took eight minutes to record the first field goal of the game, as both teams struggled to put the ball in the hoop.
Things picked up shortly after — for the Badgers at least — as they took a four-point lead heading into halftime. It was after they came out of the locker room, though, that the offence finally clicked. The Badgers went on an immediate 7-0 run to start the half and kept their foot on the gas all the way to a 62-40 win.
Despite the poor start, the Badgers were actually able to put up more points in essentially three quarters than they did the night prior. The Badgers once again held Algoma to another poor shooting night; this time the Thunderbirds shot just 16-for-63, for a two-day total of 26-of-118.
According to Rao, however, there was no major difference in his teams’ polar opposite starts to each half.
“I didn’t say anything [at halftime]. We just kept doing the same things. [In the first half] we weren’t ready to shoot the ball, we weren’t trying to score off every possession, off every set, off every pass, off every screen and in the second half we were, we were much better at it,” said Rao. “We had the open shots but we weren’t making anything, so [the team] tightens up, everybody tightens up, and when those aren’t falling, the whole game-plan kind of falls apart a bit. But we overcame it.”
Tatti led the Badgers with 21 points, four rebounds, six assists, and five steals, while Miranda Smith added 16 points and seven rebounds off of five made threes, four of which came in the second half.
“We spread the floor when [Smith] can knock those down,” said Rao. “That’s huge for us.”
The Badgers have gone 6-2 over their last eight games and now sit at an even 9-9, good enough for fourth place in the OUA West. The schedule, however, will do a complete 180 turn as the Badgers’ next game comes against the first-place McMaster Marauders tomorrow night in Hamilton, before coming back home to play third-place Windsor on February 1.