On a night when Western honoured its graduating men’s basketball players, the team repaid the favour by defeating the top team in the Ontario University Athletics West division.
Led by fifth-year forward Andrew Wedemire, the Mustangs cruised into the playoffs with a 73–59 victory over the Lakehead Thunderwolves Saturday night at Alumni Hall.
“Wedemire had an outstanding game. He’s led us as he’s done for the last two years and that’s why he was an All-Canadian last year,” Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell said.
In his last game at Alumni Hall, Wedemire dominated the floor with 24 points while adding 15 rebounds in 36 minutes. Guard Marcus Barnett, also in his last home game, would put up 13 points in addition to eight rebounds.
“This win’s a good momentum shift for us going into the playoffs,” Wedemire said.
It is not exactly a secret around the OUA, if you stop Wedemire, you’ll stop the Mustangs.
That was exactly what the Thunderwolves game plan coming in, one that head coach Scott Morrison admitted his team failed to accomplish.
“We didn’t execute the game plan that we wanted to against Wedemire tonight. He really did a number on us and we really got hurt inside tonight,” he said.
Western began the game fast, attacking the basket hard leading to a 7–2 run in the first five minutes. However, the Thunderwolves would claw their way back into the game and take the lead 16–14 at the end of the quarter.
Lakehead continued to look strong in the second quarter until Campbell called a timeout before things got out of hand. After the timeout a more confident Mustangs squad would seize the lead and go into the half up 35–30.
“I told them we need to play with confidence and execute the game plan; sometimes we’re our
own worst enemy in that regard,” Campbell said. “Once we start to execute and play with confidence we’re in good shape.”
It was the same message Campbell repeated to his squad during the half, one they listened to.
“Lately we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot by turning it over far too much and giving them extra possessions. We slowed our game down and began to play much better,” Wedemire said.
“We knew we couldn’t allow their over-aggressiveness to hurt us, if we played our game we could frustrate them and take advantage,” Mustangs guard Brett Lawrence added.
With Western dictating the play in the second half, the Thunderwolves – the best defensive team in the West – fell further behind and were unable to stop the Mustangs offence.
Lakehead tried to rally, but despite several chances to get back in the game, they were never able to string any points together shooting only 32.1 per cent from the field to Western’s 42.9 per cent.
“Our defence is all we rely on and we weren’t able to score or stop [Western], tonight also shows what happens when we don’t shoot well,” Morrison said of his team’s performance.
Although Lakehead have had their spot in the playoffs reserved for some time, Morrison declined to make excuses for his team’s performance and stated it’s a lesson his players could learn from.
“We had a lack of motivation today and championship teams come to play every night. Until we start to do that we can’t be serious of contending. I’m disappointed in our effort tonight and it’s a wake up call.”
As the final seconds ticked off the clock all eyes were on the three graduating seniors as Barnett, Lawrence and Wedemire left the game to ovations from a grateful crowd.
Any success they will have in the playoffs will come from the leadership, talent and skill those players offer.
“It’s essential that your veterans are your best players,” Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell said. “In the playoffs you’re only going to go as far as your veterans can take you, and our veterans were outstanding today.”