Photo By: Jonah Dayton

The Badgers opened up their championship defence last night with a resounding 70-36 win over the Laurier Golden Hawks to kick off the 2021-22 OUA season. 

The Badgers were led by Sam Keltos, who put up a 17-point, 16-rebound double-double despite playing just 23 minutes due to foul trouble, and rookie Madalyn Weinert, who added 15 and 10 of her own in her OUA debut.

The game got off to a slow start, with both teams failing to crack double-digits after the first quarter. But the Badgers offence came to life the rest of the way, scoring 64 of their 70 points across the final three frames.

In what was probably a combination of a very young and inexperienced Golden Hawks team and a big, long, Badger defence, Brock held Laurier to just 36 points in 40 minutes, including two single-digit quarters. Laurier never scored more than 11 points in a quarter and shot just 15.9 percent for the game. 

Despite the outcome, head coach Mike Rao says the first half defense still could’ve been better.

“I liked the [defense] in the second half, I think we held them to 16 in the second half,” said Rao. “The first half I think we let their shooters go free a little too much and we didn’t rebound the ball enough — offensively or defensively — and we had the advantage inside. I think the second half we played much better team defence and that ignited us offensively a bit.”

While Keltos dominated down low, the offence generated by the Badger guards posed another threat Laurier’s defence had to worry about. Mackenzie Robinson took just five shots all game, yet had a profound impact on the offence, leading the team in assists and initiating the halfcourt offence whenever she was on the floor. Ivana Twumasi has the ability to blow by defenders off the dribble and has the strength to finish inside with either hand, best shown by her nifty left-to-right spin move which freed her up for a layup in the second quarter.

But it was the rookie Weinert who really impressed in this one, getting the start and chipping in four assists and two steals in addition to her 15 and 10. She had a knack for reading the passing lanes last night, disrupting errant passes with countless tips and deflections that accounted for several Golden Hawks turnovers. Rarely do you see a rookie in their first career game lead the team in shot attempts; even more rarely do you not even bat an eye at it. She should continue to play a big role for this team moving forward.

Perhaps shadowed by Laurier’s brutal shooting night was the fact that Brock didn’t shoot the ball all too well either, hitting just five threes all game while shooting under 35 per cent overall. Rao attributes part of this to the extended layoff, while acknowledging that his team can play far better than they did on Wednesday.

You could see the rust,” said Rao. “We missed a lot of easy bunnies, a lot of easy shots, we didn’t find people who were wide open and we didn’t distribute the ball nearly as much as we should’ve, but I think we corrected it in the second half. We just have to play with a little more energy — sometimes we’re watching, the ball’s not moving, people aren’t moving — so you can’t rest on your laurels. You have to go out there and play.”

So to recap, the Badgers shot the ball poorly, made just five threes, only attempted six free throws, made some defensive mistakes in the first half, and won by 34 points in their first regular season game in 19 months. 

This team has a ton of potential on both ends of the floor, and should only become more familiar with one another, and thus more effective, as the season progresses. 

The Badgers will head to Waterloo for a rematch with the Golden Hawks this Saturday at 4 p.m, before heading out to Thunder Bay for back-to-back games against Lakehead next weekend. Games will be free to stream on OUA.tv.