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The beginning of the season started out with a heavyweight OUA tilt between the No. 4 Brock Badgers and the No. 8 McMaster Marauders. Right off the jump ball, McMaster had a chance to make a statement win at home and upset one of the top teams in the country. The team led for a good portion of the game, but couldn’t pull the upset off. A few weeks ago, McMaster hosted No. 5 Ryerson and put up a solid fight despite being short-handed due to injuries. They came within five in the fourth quarter, but went cold as the Rams handed the Marauders their second loss of the season.

McMaster is entering their last weekend of 2015 with a 4-2 record and a three-game winning streak. Last weekend they beat Queen’s, 84-71 and beat York, 88-74. Their only two losses (three, if you count the preseason loss to McGill), as Head Coach Amos Connolly points out, have come at the hands of conference opponents ranked higher than them.

Is that an excuse for not pulling the upsets? No.

It’s just something to take note of especially since McMaster was in prime position to grab the win in each of those games. McMaster has shown fight against top-tier competition, and with a banged up roster.

“In every one of those losses our opponents highlighted a weakness of ours. McGill hurt us on the boards and shot the three really well. Brock turned up the pressure in the second half and we struggled with the press,” said Connolly. “Ryerson blocked our down ball screen in a way that we hadn’t seen at that intensity. Each loss opens your eyes up to a different thing.”

Since the Brock loss on Nov. 4, McMaster has outrebounded four of their past five opponents by a margin of 155 to 131. After allowing McGill to shoot 35.3 percent from three, Mac has held their last six opponents to an average of 28.5 percent from deep, with the lowest being 22.2 percent (Toronto) and the highest being 34.4 (Ryerson).

Part of learning from these losses is how McMaster players prepare for games studying scouting reports. The coaches give players information regarding opponents’ strategies and tendencies so that players can prepare and respond accordingly.

“One of the things that was really critical was getting a better understanding of what the guys’ needs were for scouting reports. It was about figuring out what type of information they wanted to see. What we thought was enough for them, wasn’t,” said Connolly. “Now we’re in a place where we’re pretty clear on our end on what they need and we’re giving them the information they want. It really helps them in their game prep. There’s always this risk that you’re going to give them too much to study, but this group loves a lot of information.”

More game prep information has helped McMaster respond and adjust to what they’ve learned from their losses. Homework for student-athletes doesn’t just involve course material — they also study their opponents from what dribble moves they like using against different defenses to where they like to shoot on the floor.

“I think what we’ve done a great job on is learning from the losses. I think this is what this team does in general over the years. We’re good at not overreacting to wins and taking lessons from losses and going forward with them. I really like this group,” said Connolly. “I like their commitment to success, their commitment to each other, and their willingness to bring issues forward. I’m really happy with what I’m seeing from them right now.”

McMaster will host Guelph this weekend in hopes of ending 2015 on a winning note. Tip-off is at 3 p.m on Saturday, Nov. 28. This will be their last game until Jan. 13, 2016 when they head to Waterloo to start their second half of the season.

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