Weeks worth of frustrations and close calls built up inside the Western Mustangs men's basketball program leading up to Saturday afternoon.
That's what made the Mustangs' 90–65 win over the Windsor Lancers so cathartic. The Mustangs exorcised the demons that have held this team back through the first 11 games of the season.
"We thought we could win today, but obviously to do it in that fashion, make a bunch of threes, and that point spread, I don't think we expected that," said Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell. "Overall, we had great contributions from a lot of guys. We had multiple guys make multiple threes. We had a good team effort with guys contributing in different ways."
It was a dominant performance in every aspect of the game. The offense was uptempo, pushing the ball to hit open lanes and finding spot up shooters on the wings. The defense was physical, pushing the Lancers around while shutting down Lancer star Luke Allin.
Allin torched the Mustangs for 21 points and eight rebounds in Wednesday night's 85-78 loss to the Lancers. But in the rematch on Saturday Allin was nearly invisible, scoring three points on 1-of-7 shooting. The Mustangs' ability to shut Allin down was one of the points of praise Campbell had for his team after the game.
"It was all about dealing with [Mike] Rocca and [Mitch] Farrell," said Campbell. "If you don't let those two run around then Allin isn't going to be open for wide open shots when his man has to go in and help."
The Mustangs were led by a consistent offensive attack that saw six players score at least eight points. Cam Morris led the team with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 4-of-4 from three. Omar Shiddo added 15 points while Eriq Jenkins and Jedson Tavernier had 14 points apiece.
It was a performance that should send notice to the rest of the OUA that the Mustangs are not to be taken lightly. But more importantly it should be a notice to the Mustang team members that they are capable of taking major steps as a program.
"You saw tonight a glimpse of what we can do," said Campbell. "We have done that at times in games but nowhere near in a full game or we have lapses that cost us that. What we need to keep doing is clean up the things we need to work on and continue to try and maintain those things and focus that we do well."
At 3–9, a playoff berth is still a long shot. This team is playing for something more intangible; an identity and a foundation to build on. This particular performance could do both of those things. The Mustangs played and thrived with a style very much their own. If this is the Mustangs at their best then that's a scary proposition for the Mustangs' future opponents.
"We played great, I think it was our best basketball of the season," said Shiddo. "We know what we're capable of. It's just about being consistent and being true to ourselves."
"This is just a sneak peek," he added with a grin.
The Mustangs now have a long break before returning for a pair of weekend games on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 with the Ottawa GeeGees and Carleton Ravens, who are a combined 18–0 this season.