After starting the new year off with a bad loss to the last-place York Lions, the Badgers men’s basketball team has bounced back and are riding a three-game win streak with big victories over the 12-4 Western Mustangs and the now 7-7 Windsor Lancers.
The win over Western was Brock’s most impressive win to date; they were already missing one starter in Kascius Small-Martin, and to make matters worse they had three players foul out, including Daniel Cayer who was limited to just 24 minutes, fouling out with 8:25 still to play in the fourth.
Cayer, who is the Badgers best defender and rebounder, left Brock severely undersized in the paint, especially considering the Mustangs’ 6’7 centre Julian Walker was hurting Brock all night. He finished with 24 points and nine rebounds.
“When one guy goes down the next guy has to step up, so we don’t care about size or anything, we just need that next man, whoever that is, to step up and I think we’ve been doing a good job of that,” said fifth-year point guard Tyler Brown. “When somebody goes down or is in foul trouble, the next man comes in and brings that same energy and is just ready to fight with us.”
Cayer put up 12 and 10 in his limited playing time, but the leading scorer for the Badgers was third-year guard Noah LaPierre, who has been inserted into the starting lineup in place of Small-Martin, and has excelled in his new role. He hit six threes en route to a new career-high of 23 points, yet his biggest contribution was not his offensive firepower, but his efforts to keep possessions alive, with nifty saves and passes that prevented would-be turnovers or end-of-the-shot-clock chucks. He did all the little things necessary to upset a team like Western.
“Noah played great, he hit some big shots for us, but besides the point, the one thing we were looking at was he had a lot of offensive rebounds and kept a lot of possessions alive for us,” said Brown. “Defensively, he’s the one who was talking the most, leading the defence so he just played a great game out there and was a big reason why we won.”
Brown himself added 10 points and dished out 12 assists, while Godsman Kwakwah added 18.
The Badgers then welcomed the Lancers to town as part of their annual ‘Shoot for the Cure’ weekend, which started off real bad for the home team. Windsor opened up in a 1-2-2 halfcourt trap to go along with an 11-3 run that forced head coach Willy Manigat to call a timeout.
Windsor’s Jordon Fullerton was largely responsible for the damage, scoring 10 points in the opening six minutes off 4-5 shooting en route to the Lancers hanging 30 points on Brock in the quarter. Now whether the Badgers drank some of Michael’s Secret Stuff in between quarters, the rest of the game was totally different. Fullerton scored five more in the second quarter and then didn’t score again the rest of the game.
“We kept letting him get out in transition,” said head coach Willy Manigat on Fullerton’s early scoring frenzy. “Our scouting report literally says he scores out of transition and we didn’t load up on the basketball, we didn’t force him to be a passer and we didn’t force him to do the things we wanted him to do. It’s just about us staying disciplined and if we do that we’ll be just fine.”
The Badgers allowed 30 points in the first quarter and then just 41 the rest of the game.
The third quarter was the best quarter the Badgers have played to date; they held Windsor to just 10 points and dropped 31 of their own, 14 of which came from Tyler Brown who tied his career-high with 30 in the game. The quarter was punctuated with a three from freshman forward Dom Mitchell-Williamson, who hit his first career triple to beat the third quarter buzzer.
LaPierre and Caldwell have exceeded expectations in the new year and have proven to be key contributors during this win streak.
“They’re just being aggressive,” said Manigat. “Every player on this team made it someway, somehow. Even though I didn’t recruit the players that I currently have, someone saw something in them and it’s just about getting the most out of them and putting our players in a position to play through their strengths. You see that guys are finally buying into that and you’re seeing a lot of guys strive and play well. Noah’s playing the best defence I’ve seen him play all year because he’s finally understanding that if he just takes care of that end of the floor, then he can get in transition and find opportunities to be a shooter, which he is.”
“We took that tough loss to York to start the season, but we just found a new focus, a new level of focus where we’re just locked in,” said Brown. “We had a rough first half of the season, so we have to start winning some games. Everybody’s locked in and excited for the challenge to come in and win these games.”