By: Matthew Jordan
3-point dominance was the key for the McMaster men’s basketball team as they defeated the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 98-78 on Friday, remaining undefeated in preseason action.
The Marauders came into the game animated and energized, feeding off of each other and the crowd to sustain their solid play on both ends of the court.
McMaster owned the game from 3-point range, shooting an impressive 44 per cent from beyond the arc. Guard Joe Rocca and Forward Nathan Pelech combined for nine 3-pointers, firing up the crowd in the process.
Rocca scored a game-high 28 points, with multiple Marauders scoring in double digits as well.
The gameplay began at a slower pace than the Marauders are used to, with both teams trying to adjust to each other’s playing styles.
St. FX struck first with a slam dunk two minutes after tip-off, but Mac responded quickly, using a pair of treys from Pelech to help vitalize the pace of the game.
Aggressive play on both sides led to both teams being in the penalty for the final few minutes of the first quarter.
Foul shooting was shaky for both the Marauders and X-Men, who went into the second quarter still neck-and-neck at 24-22 in favour of the Maroon and Grey.
St. FX strategically switched its defensive style in the second quarter, opting for a highly effective 2-3 zone to shut down the Marauders.
McMaster Head Coach Amos Connolly made the wise decision to call a time out, re-energizing his visibly fatigued players, who came back into the game with a scoring burst from 3-point range to lead 51-43 at the half.
The second half was notably quicker paced than the first, with both teams using an aggressive full-court press to minimize the opposition’s scoring.
McMaster was able to capitalize on the boards, grabbing rebounds and running an efficient fast break to quickly score off many of the X-Men’s missed field goals.
Nathan Pelech continued to impress as a shooter, rebounder, and defensive presence on the court, and his hustle contributed significantly to Mac’s dominant second half.
He finished the game just shy of a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 9 boards.
The scoring margin began to grow in Mac’s favour during the third quarter, where they led by as many as 19 points.
Both sides’ benches began to become more vocal during the second half, ultimately resulting in a technical foul on St. FX Coach Steve Konchalski. The Marauders seized that opportunity to widen the score differential and finished off the period 78-62.
The X-Men came into the final frame on the attack, and opened with a pair of 3-pointers, while again using a zone defense to their advantage.
Frustration from the McMaster coaching staff and bench was visible as the Maroon and Grey scrambled offensively, eventually leading to the second technical of the game being called against the Marauders bench.
When gameplay resumed, McMaster returned to a fast-break style of play, allowing them to quickly regain their 16-point lead.
The win was sealed with a full-court pass to rookie Rohan Boney, who elevated to the rim for a monstrous slam dunk, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Boney, who finished the game with 16 points, was the top-rated prospect last year and has been a crucial part of the Marauders’ success thus far.
In the final minutes of the game, McMaster’s starting point guard and 2012 CIS Rookie of the Year Adam Presutti toppled over after some heavy contact from a St. FX player, forcing him to leave the game with an ankle injury. His incapacity to play would undoubtedly be detrimental to the team, as his presence on the roster is an important part of the team’s chemistry.
Coach Connolly took out the starting lineup from the court in the dying minutes of the game, which drew a large round of applause from the crowd. The team’s second unit closed out the game effectively, holding a 20-point lead for a final score of 98-78.
If the Marauders can keep up the 3-point prowess and fast-pact scoring that helped them with this win, they will continue to be a major threat to any opposition in the CIS.
Friday’s game was merely a preview of the successes that this team can achieve this season, as well as a testament to the solid fan support here at McMaster.