Jedson Tavernier of the Western Mustangs in the defensive zone against the McMaster Marauders on Jan. 20. Michael Conley / GAZETTE

The Western Mustangs were looking for their fifth straight win on Saturday as they took on the McMaster Marauders at Alumni Hall, but a second-half meltdown led to a 90–76 loss.

Things came together easily for the Mustangs early on the offensive end of the court, thanks largely to second-year guard Omar Shiddo, who came out firing early with an array of step-back jumpers and penetrating takes to the basket. Shiddo led all first-half scorers with 18 points on seven-of-11 shootings.

However, the offensive intensity wasn't matched on the defensive glass, as the Mustangs gave up 16 offensive rebounds to the Marauders in the first half. 

"We just did a very poor job of our defensive rebounding," said head coach Brad Campbell. "In the second half, and primarily in the third quarter, it was our defence's penetration: we constantly got beat, broke down and gave up a lot of layups in the quarter. The help wasn't there, and I thought we were outplayed physically in that game."

The two teams continued trading baskets in the third quarter, and the Mustangs continued to struggled to box out the Marauders in the paint. A 15–7 Marauders run led to McMaster claiming a 59–52 lead halfway through the third quarter. The Marauders would then take control, increasing their lead to 69–56 as the Mustangs were continuously unable to answer.

Things started to get out of control in the fourth quarter: the Mustangs proved incapable of competing on the boards and turned the ball over. Despite a four-game winning streak that had the Mustangs rolling coming out of the Christmas break, issues that had plagued them for much of the first half of the year came back to haunt them.

"Our execution lacked on offence, we forced some stuff and we've done this throughout the season a few times where we're struggling on offence then we force it a little bit too much and make it difficult on ourselves," said Campbell. "Instead of trying to produce better shots, we kind of rushed and took poorer shots like we were going to get it back, and we did that during the stretch and it played right into McMaster's hands."

The Marauders lead continued to grow, looking very much unlike a team with a 2–13 record. Freshman guard Sasha Simic led the Marauders offensively, with 22 points to go along with seven rebounds. Shiddo cooled down in the second half due largely to foul trouble, finishing the game with 21 points. Jedson Tavernier and Henry Tan had 12 points apiece.

"Everything that could've went wrong went wrong," said Shiddo on his team's subpar performance. "It's a tough one to lose because we were sitting in second in the division and that was a bad loss against a team we should beat."

The Mustangs turned the ball over 15 times while losing the rebounding battle 46–31.

"It's everything, you know," added Shiddo on whether the loss was due to a lack of effort. "It is effort, obviously, but it's also just the ball not always rolling your way. It's the little things and they did have more effort, but we were working too. It was just one of those days."

With the loss, the Mustangs fall to 9–7 on the season. Next up for the Mustangs is a trip to Sault Ste. Marie to take on the Algoma Thunderbirds on Jan. 26.