The Western Mustangs men's basketball team made great progress this weekend, pushing a 6–2 Queen's team to the limit before recording their second victory of the season over the York Lions.
The Mustangs suffered yet another close single-digit loss to Queen's on Friday night as the Golden Gaels fought off a fourth quarter Mustangs comeback to drop the Mustangs to 1–8 on the season. The 75–69 loss was Western's fifth single-digit defeat of the season and yet another difficult setback for a young and inexperienced squad that has struggled to exhibit the ability to close out tight games.
But the Mustangs seemed to take a big step as a program on Saturday with an 81–71 win over the York Lions. And while it wasn't a perfect performance, the Mustangs found a way to win in what could be a turning point for this team.
"The win is good. Hopefully that does some good for our confidence," said Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell. "There are some things we still need to do a lot better at the end of games that still showed itself today. But we were aggressive and we caused a bunch of turnovers and we had a nice balanced effort."
The victory put an end to a five-game losing streak that dated back to mid-November. But more than that, it may have been exactly what the Mustangs needed to get the season back on track. On multiple occasions they nearly blew significant leads, but clutch shooting and a hard-nosed defensive performance rescued the Mustangs. For the first time in a long time, the Mustangs had smiles on their faces as they left the gym.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the win was the Mustangs' offensive efficiency. At times, this team has undeniably struggled this season to move the ball around and hit shots. But when the Mustangs were at their best on Saturday night, they created space with great ball movement. It was only when their offence stagnated that the Lions were able to chip away at the lead.
"I think we're getting a little bit better at moving the ball," said team captain Alex Coote about the offensive performance. "We got a lot of teammates involved. The good thing tonight was not one or two guys who won it for us, it was everybody, a team effort."
Coote and Omar Shiddo led the Mustangs with 14 points apiece. Eriq Jenkins and Cam Morris each added 11 while Eric McDonald had 10 points. The team shot 48.5 per cent from the field and 38.5 per cent from the three point line.
The Mustangs took control of the game in the first quarter as back-to-back steals from Jenkins led to transition baskets that turned the momentum entirely in Western's favour. McDonald also had four steals, helping the Mustangs win the turnover battle 28–19.
The Mustangs have the opportunity to build on the momentum gained from the win as they travel to Windsor to take on the Lancers. At 6–4 and leading the Ontario University Athletics West Division, the Lancers are a solid benchmark to measure where the Mustangs truly are as a team.
"We've got to build, we got to take what we learned from this game," said Campbell on what the win means moving forward. "It's always nice to teach some things in a win other than a loss. We've had a lot of close games where we didn't close out in the fourth quarter, and we have to get over the hump and we have to learn."