While most McMaster students spent their winter breaks at home, the Marauder’s women’s basketball team took their talents out east for exhibition action.
Mac had the opportunity to square off against three out-of-conference teams: the University of Victoria, Saint Mary’s University and Acadia University.
All three teams have been among the top of the women’s hoops crop, appearing in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport top-ten rankings. UVic and Acadia were voted in last year and Saint Mary’s currently holds the No. 1 ranking.
The Maroon and Grey went 2-1 on the East Coast swing, with the loss coming to SMU.
Being the first game action since the exam break, there is always the scare that a team could have some rust to knock off.
However, head coach Theresa Burns was impressed with how quickly her team got their legs under them.
“Somebody would miss a look or be a little late on a pass and then that was it. You didn’t see it again,” said Burns. “It was like ‘yup, got it, I know what I’m supposed to do.”
The highlight of the trip would come in the second game, as Mac went toe-to-toe with the SMU Huskies, but ultimately fell 65-59.
McMaster was only down one point at half and later found themselves down two in the fourth quarter before the No. 1 team pulled away.
It was the best performance of the season for the team, and reaffirmed what the coaching staff has been telling the squad since the summer.
“We had attention to detail, and we were understanding their personnel and how we wanted to play each individual on [Saint Mary’s]. We also figured out that if we run our own stuff, we can be a handful for any other team,” Burns said.
The seasoned coach also pointed to the continued dominance of guard Danielle Boiago and centre Hailey Milligan.
The duo combines for an average of 36.2 points per game – the highest scoring pair in the OUA.
What is particularly impressive about their offensive production is the efficiency. Boiago is shooting 46 per cent from the field after she shot 30 per cent as a rookie, and Milligan has bumped up her percentage from 48 per cent to 57 per cent – the top mark in the conference among players with at least 40 attempted field goals.
With the easier part of their schedule – that being games against the weaker OUA East – in the rear view, Mac cannot afford to make any mistakes for the remainder of the regular season.
“The in-between stuff, the day-to-day, is all about sticking to the process and not cutting corners. When you look at our league, the parity is just ridiculous. A 7-3 record, in most conferences, is good for first or second. For us, there is not going to be any ‘gimme games’, it will always be a battle,” said Burns on the upcoming months.
McMaster’s road to the playoffs will run through three teams who are 9-1: Western, Windsor and Laurier. The Maroon and Grey will have their first look at Windsor on Jan. 11, as a part of Marauder weekend. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.