With the Ontario University Athletics men's basketball season coming to a close, the Western Mustangs suffered another loss, falling 65–80 to the Brock Badgers on Wednesday night at Alumni Hall.
The loss dropped the Mustangs to 6–13 while the Badgers won their ninth straight game to improve to 14–4 on the season.
The Mustangs kept it close for much of the game, despite a challenging offensive night that saw Western shoot 32.3 per cent from the field and 25 per cent from the three point line.
But those offensive woes proved insurmountable against a Brock team that out rebounded the Mustangs 46–26 while outscoring Western 28–18 in the paint.
For Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell, the loss was another blown shot at salvaging a far-fetched chance at a playoff berth.
"That game was there for the taking," said Campbell. "We just couldn't really emerge or do anything and put back-to-back offensive possessions together to really cut into things. We had our opportunities, we just couldn't get over the hump, offensively."
It's been the story of the Mustangs season, one that was expected to be a rebuilding year for a program with only one fourth-year player.
So many times this season Western exceeded expectations. Omar Shiddo has emerged as one of the top freshman in the nation, an explosive volume shooter who can create offence off the dribble. Shiddo tied Brad Campbell's Mustangs single game scoring record with 36 points on Feb. 11 against Laurier. He then led the team with 17 points in the loss to Brock.
Eriq Jenkins proved throughout the season that he can be a cornerstone piece for the program moving forward with a game marked by defensive intensity and offensive creativity.
Big men Ian Smart and Alex Otzyv also showed steady improvement throughout the season. Smart has averaged 10.6 points in the last six games and will be a pivotal piece of the puzzle next season.
And with Nik Farkic and Jedson Tavernier returning next season, the Mustangs could take a big step back towards contention in 2017–18.
But this season has been marked by inconsistency, which came to fruition again in the loss to Brock.
"Anytime we got any momentum we would shoot ourselves in the foot," said Campbell. "We'd turn it over or not grab a rebound and if we got a bit of momentum, we just couldn't turn the corner to get that big run that we needed. We just hurt ourselves a lot there."
The Mustangs have one more game to play this season, a home date with the McMaster Marauders. On paper the game has little significance for the standings, with the Marauders firmly in a playoff spot and the Mustangs playing exclusively for pride.
But it will also be Senior Day for the only senior on the Western roster. Co-captain Eric McDonald will be honoured for his contributions to the program, while his teammates will fight to get him a win in his final game wearing the purple and white.