McMaster’s men’s basketball team took both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country to the wire, but watched the game balloon out of hand with six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Ottawa went on a 17-2 run to close out the game and Carleton put Mac away with a 15-8 run.
The Marauders were in a position to win both games, only down one to the Gee-Gees in the fourth quarter and tied with the reigning CIS champions Ravens in the final stanza. But ultimately, a lack of consistency cost McMaster two wins.
It would be easy to walk away with a sense of accomplishment after hanging with two of the best opponents in the country.
But not getting a win is leaving the Marauders wanting more.
“We’ve proven that we can play the best teams in the country tough, what we haven’t proven is that we can beat them. We beat Ryerson – that’s the only thing we can hang our hat on. Coming close to Carleton? Coming close to Ottawa? You can take it is a positive, but that’s not a statement,” said head coach Amos Connolly. “We’re not at the level we need to be.”
In both games, the opponent’s best scorer went nova.
Carleton’s Phil Scrubb put together a jaw-dropping performance for the big crowd, scoring 44 points on 18-29 shooting, along with seven rebounds and six assists.
Scrubb did his damage from deep (five made threes on nine attempts) and getting to the paint and knocking down impossible-to-guard step-back jump shots from fourteen feet.
He scored or assisted on five of Carleton’s seven scores in the 15-8 fourth quarter run.
Connolly said it was the best individual performance he’s seen in the Burridge Gym.
The following night, Johnny Berhanemeskel shot 14-21 for 38 points in 36 minutes of play.
His teammates joined him in the hot shooting performance, as the Gee-Gees shot 57.1 per cent on the game. Connolly said it was less of Ottawa’s talent and more of Mac’s failure.
“We gave a team 100 points. You score 85 points in a CIS game and you can’t win it? There’s a problem there. Obviously, our defence is porous,” said Connolly. In the last minutes, Mac also turned the ball over five times.
For the second week in a row, “intensity” was the buzzword tossed around by both players and coaches at post-practice interviews.
“We need to bring the highest intensity possible. In the first quarter against Ryerson, that was one of the best quarters we’ve played. We need to play with that every game, every quarter,” said forward Taylor Black.
The fourth-year did put some blame on himself, saying that he needs to step up as the “go-to guy” in final quarters and become a better leader on the court.
While the losses are disheartening, there is some optimism in the Maroon camp.
The competition level was the highest both of McMaster’s opponents have faced so far this season.
Although critical of his team’s performance against Ottawa, Connolly offered a light take on the weekend’s losses.
“Are we close or are we far? I can’t figure that out yet. I suppose, if you’re wondering, you must be close. But I couldn’t answer that question definitively right now,” said Connolly.
OUA interlock play wraps up on this weekend against the Queen’s Gaels and the York Lions.
Should Mac win both – which is not expected to be an easy task – they’ll sit at 5-3. Outside of Windsor, the rest of the OUA West is floundering with two wins between the bottom five teams.
But Mac has consistency issues of their own to figure out before being capable of considering themselves streets ahead of anyone else.