The men’s basketball team was down in Toronto last weekend for some regular season action, facing off against the Ryerson Rams and University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues. The season started off with a strong win over Guelph, but the Marauders arrived at their weekend in Toronto with a different mindset after back-to-back games to the York Lions and Queen’s Gaels.

“The guys came in with a lot of confidence today,” said head coach Patrick Tatham following the Ryerson game. “We had our ego’s bruised last week with Queen’s and York, and I challenged the guys to play better defence, both team defence and one-on-one.”

For Tatham, the former head coach of the Rams and 2016 Ontario University Athletics Coach of the Year, a win against his former team after two crushing losses was all he wanted.

“It’s always weird coming back to where you actually started everything and sitting on the opposite side,” said Tatham. “Coaching against coach Rana, who coached me when I was 14 and 15 years old, and playing against some of the kids that I recruited four or five years ago was just an amazing feeling. But the best feeling would be getting that W.”

The Marauders went into the game knowing what it would mean to win for their head coach, but are also aware that they always need to play with a winning mentality no matter who they face.

“We understand that [Ryerson] loves him as a coach and will be glad to see him back even if he’s on the other side, but it doesn’t change how we prepare for the game,” said first-year starter Kareem Collins. “We are going into this game hoping we can win just like any other game.”

Collins is one of the 2016 recruits that both Tatham and former head coach Amos Connolly brought in to revamp the Marauders. Miles Seward, a former National Collegiate Athletics Association Division I player at the University of Northern Colorado, Kitchener natives Sasha Simic and Tyrick Thompson and former Carleton Raven Sheldon McIntosh are among the team’s new faces in this transitional year.

“They really took [playing with more of a defensive mindset] to heart this week in practice and it really showed today,” said Tatham. “We were not only physical and aggressive on the glass, but also defensively and offensively.”

Mac was able to lead by a marginal difference early on in the first half for the first time this season. This was largely due to newcomer Seward, who is already one of the OUA’s leading scorers, averaging 25 points per game. The Marauders were able to end the first quarter 25-20, surprising both the Rams and the several Rams fans attending the school’s Blue & Gold Night game at Coca-Cola Court.

The Marauders were not able to maintain the lead for long after the second half, when Ryerson was able to outscore Mac, and pull ahead to a 44-41 lead in the third quarter. For the rest of the game, the two teams went back and forth matching each other shot for shot.

For veteran player David McCulloch, playing with more discipline was a huge part of the team’s mindset coming into the game against Ryerson.

“We’ve been pretty undisciplined for the last few games,” said McCulloch. “So we really needed to control their tempo and play the game we wanted to play.”

The Marauders executed their game plan extremely well throughout the whole game, but were not able to make the most out of their opportunities when it really mattered. The win started to look in Mac’s favour as Matt Quiring was able to tie the game 69-69 at the 30-second mark. But the Marauders were unable to get the lead because of missed free throws and a stolen inbounds pass.

It was the worst time possible for the Marauders to make such fundamental mistakes after playing extremely disciplined the entire game.

“We really felt like we had the game,” said Seward, who ended the game with a career-high 29 points. “So losing because of our lack of discipline and inability to execute when it mattered the most is unacceptable and what we will be focusing on tomorrow.”

Unfortunately for Mac, the same problems followed them into their next game. They were able to start the game off strong against the Varsity Blues, but lost the lead by the the end of the first quarter. The Mac men were unable to catch up for the remainder of the game.

Reminiscent of their previous match, the Marauders still continued to make mistakes playing catch up. To make matters worse for Mac, Tatham was ejected from the game after receiving two technical fouls for disagreeing with a referee’s call.

Although McCulloch was able to finish the game with a team and career-high of 32 points, the game ultimately just slipped out of the team’s grasp in a close 92-88 loss. Simple mistakes make the biggest differences in tight games like this.

This was the fourth straight loss on the road for the Marauders, but a valuable learning experience for both the team and the coaching staff. With the next two games back at Burridge Gym, the Marauders hope to maintain their 1-0 home win record.

One of the most valuable takeaways from their weekend in Toronto is that the Marauders have what it takes to hang with the best of the best. As they look to face the Laurentian Voyageurs and the Nipissing Lakers this upcoming weekend, they need to not only use their upsets to ignite a fire in them, but get back to basics so they can defend their home court.

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