Heading into this past weekend, the Badgers men’s basketball team was riding a three-game win streak, including big wins over Western and Windsor. They had a great opportunity to extend it to four with a game against the worst team in the OUA, the winless Ontario Tech Ridgebacks.
It’s been a tough year for the Ridgebacks as this is the first season that they have played in the OUA. The Badgers made quick work of Ontario Tech, jumping out to a 32-11 lead after the first quarter en route to the 98-56 win. The 98 points marks a season-high for the Badgers.
Noah LaPierre scored 22 points on an incredibly efficient 10-13 shooting, including 8-9 from two-point range. Daniel Caldwell scored a game-high 23 off the bench, along with eight rebounds and five assists. The blowout allowed for starters Tyler Brown, Daniel Cayer and Godsman Kwakwah to rest on the bench for most of the game, as the role players and reserves got an opportunity to play extended minutes.
Tyrell MacLennan, who averaged just 4.2 minutes heading into Friday night’s game, played 17 minutes against the Ridgebacks and scored 13 points off 6-9 shooting. Freshman forward Dom Mitchell-Williamson, who has averaged fewer than four minutes per game, played 20. He added five points and five boards.
“Blowout or not, there’s guys who get an opportunity, like the guys who ended the game,” said head coach Willy Manigat. “If they can get some confidence from this and learn from their mistakes, then moving forward we get deeper as a team. It’s just an opportunity for us to get better.”
Mitchell-Williamson, who has gotten more of an opportunity as of late, is an intriguing player moving forward; he’s a long, lanky wing who has the potential to turn into a real contributor in future years.
“He’s an athlete,” said Manigat. “He’s an athlete and now we just have to teach him how to play the game. That’s going to take some time, but he’s a young basketball player and we’re just going to give him opportunities and have him learn. At the beginning of the year he was a part of our plan, but he’s struggled with some injuries so we’re just trying to let him recover and get better so we can see what he provides. Hopefully he can play more and more and a game like [Ontario Tech] is an opportunity for him to get out there and show he can play in extended minutes.”
The Badgers were in for a much tougher opponent the following night, as the Queen’s Gaels came to town boasting a then 9-6 record. The Gaels had six players score in double figures, and while the Badgers made it interesting late in the game, the Gaels ultimately held on for the 75-69 win.
The Gaels led by as much as 15, but the Badgers came as close as two, trailing 66-64 with 4:27 left in the game. A couple of late threes by Godsman Kwakwah — including a stepback three over the Gaels’ Connor Keefe which had him stumbling back to the free throw line — were not enough to overcome the deficit. Kwakwah finished with 17 points, while Daniel Cayer led all scorers with 19. The loss stopped the win streak at four, but for Manigat, the result is not what’s important in this season of growth.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, I just wanna coach my guys. I get 40 minutes where I get to coach my guys and there’s only a certain amount of games you get to play. We’re trying to build a program here and we have a long way to go.”
Speaking of growth, Brock welcomed a number of potential recruits who were in attendance during the win against Ontario Tech Friday night. In addition to Brock, they were also visiting McMaster and Western as part of the recruitment process, according to one of the potential recruits, Tyson Dunn.
“We look for people that are passionate about basketball and people that actually want to be good and are good listeners,” said Manigat when asked about traits in potential recruits. “They must take care of their school and have a certain level of maturity and just guys who love basketball. To be around me, I think guys know that I care, so you have to care and you have to be passionate or else I’m not the coach for you. I think the people that come through these doors before they even get to come on a visit, they know what they’re in for. That’s just how I approach it.”
The Badgers will play their final home game of the season this Wednesday against York for Seniors’ Night, where Tyler Brown will be honoured before the game.