The Western Mustangs men's basketball team has to learn from what happened on Saturday night.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding season. After losing all-time leading scorer Greg Morrow and key contributors Tony Spiridis and Peter Scholtes from last year, the expectations surrounding this years Mustangs team were low.
Their 83-81 loss on Saturday night changed that perception.
The loss was respectable and promising for the Mustangs. And certainly avoidable.
They were close enough, and kicked themselves enough, to be disappointed that they didn't pull off the upset against a talented and battle-tested Gryphons team.
The Mustangs had a lead that grew to as much as 18 points in the second quarter that evaporated after halftime, as the Gryphons came out hungry and firing and the Mustangs failed to respond.
That's the danger of being young and inexperienced. The excitement of jumping out to the big lead hurt their focus.
“We got a bit of an experience issue on our team and welcome to the league," said Campbell about his team's third quarter performance. "You blink for five minutes and a team can put a run on you and you either get a big lead or lose a big lead. That’s how our league works."
The team's new faces played a prominent role in taking that big second quarter. Eriq Jenkins, a transfer from NCAA Division II Le Moyne College, led the Mustangs with 22 points and 6 rebounds. Jenkins was 4-of-6 from the three-point line and displayed a dynamic offensive attack that will be vital to the success of the team.
Omar Shiddo scored 13 points in the loss and Cam Morris scored nine of 15 points from three while whipping the Western bench into a frenzy.
While last year's Mustangs squad relied heavily on Greg Morrow to score 30 a night to win, this year's edition of Western basketball has a balanced offence that moves the ball well and penetrates the paint.
"We don’t have any one particular guy that is gonna get 30 on you so we need a lot of guys to contribute," said Campbell.
The Mustangs defence was porous in the second half, allowing the Gryphons to get back into the game. Bad defence and soft rebounding comes with a young, unseasoned team.
But a fourth quarter comeback saw the Mustangs cut a 10 point Gryphons lead to two late in the game. While Guelph hung on, the Mustangs fight was impressive. It was the kind of effort that will build the teams resolve.
“It was good to see that we fought back and had a chance to make it interesting and took the lead at the end a couple times," said Campbell. "Our defence let us down, we gave up 51 in the second half and that’s not gonna get it done. We’re a young team but we need to learn these lessons the hard way and hopefully we can move on and get better the next time.”
According to returning third-year Mustang Jedson Tavernier, the team will need to work hard and play tough, grinding basketball in order to succeed this year.
“We still have a lot to prove, none of us are really [U Sports] proven yet," he said. "We just have to work hard and when teams come to play us they know they’ll need to work hard and if they’re gonna beat us it’s gonna be a grind.”