Holiday tournaments are not about the wins and losses, but the McMaster women’s basketball picked up three big wins in the Concordia Invitational this winter break.

The results of those games can influence CIS top ten rankings, which in turn influences the seeding at the national tournament. Head coach Theresa Burns was satisfied with the results, but was more impressed with the team’s growth.

“I thought we took some real steps forward, individually and as a team,” said Burns. “We had five people at any given time, whoever was on the court, we operated at as a five player unit.”

While McMaster finished the 2014 portion of their season atop the OUA Central division, the team’s play was not consistent. For example, Mac opened up the first game against Lakehead with strong play before losing by 15.

The road game against Brock saw the Marauders jump out to a 19-5 lead, yet the Badgers came back and took the lead in the second quarter. Mac would steady and win convincingly, but it will take a full 40-minute performance to beat other elite teams.

The Marauders showed the ability to perform at that level with their sweep over the winter break: they beat Concordia 85-72, bested Bishop’s 84-33 before beating Queen’s 75-48.

Topping the Gaels, who started the year ranked before dropping out of the top-ten in late November, is the most impressive win of the break.

“We got better every night. I thought we came out pretty strong given that we are coming off Christmas break, we had only one one-hour practice under our belts. There was a little bit of rust in the first game, but the next night we shook the rust right off and then against Queen’s, even better again,” Burns said.

“From a consistency standpoint, we were very good. Our key players did what we rely on them to do.”

Now, the team heads into a critical stretch of their season. They lost to Laurier, 62-48 and now have to bounce back to take on Ryerson on Jan. 10. Before the game, Burns said she thought the Golden Hawks haven’t gotten enough credit for their early-season wins.

Ryerson is an up-and-coming team too; the Rams started the season unranked and have climbed to No. 8, right behind McMaster.

A first-round playoff bye is a goal for the team, and the month of January will heavily influence Mac’s chances. In a deep conference, Mac wants to play as few games as it can.

January is a road-heavy month, with five of the seven games away from Burridge.

If McMaster can get through the month with only a couple losses, they will set themselves up nicely for a playoff run and a shot at the OUA championship.

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