A weekend home split with the Brock Badgers and McMaster Marauders is not one that Laurentian Voyageurs men's basketball coach Shawn Swords is likely to complain about.
Hosting the top-ten ranked Badgers on Friday night, the Voyageurs exchanged quarterly momentum swings with the visitors, making one final push down the stretch, but falling short in an 86-82 loss.
Brock jumped out to a 26-14 lead after the opening ten minutes of play, but Laurentian narrowed that gap to 45-41 by the half. The final two quarters followed a similar pattern, as the Badgers bolted again, taking a 67-54 lead into the fourth before L.U. rallied, outscoring a very tough opponent 28-19 over the course of the final ten minutes of play.
Rookie Kadre Gray continues to lead the Voyageurs offence, finishing with a game-high 24 point performance, with O.J. Watson (15), Nelson Yengue (10) and Joseph Sykes (10) also hitting double digits.
A very balanced Brock attack featured five players with ten points or more, a grouping that included Ryan Bennett (17), Dani Elgadi (16), Tyler Brown (15), Cassidy Ryan (11) and Johneil Simpson (10).
The Badgers held the advantage on the boards, out-rebounding Laurentian 36-25 and securing the win largely on the basis of a 17-4 margin in the area of second chance points.
Facing the 4-4 Marauders the next evening at the Ben Avery Gym, Laurentian rode a key third quarter outburst to victory, downing McMaster 95-87. In a tightly contested battle, the teams finished with 20 points each in the first quarter and 25 each in the fourth, with the visitors outscoring the home side 20-18 in the second.
Given how little there was to choose between the squads, it came as little surprise that a 32-22 showing by the Laurentian lads in the third quarter would provide just enough separation to allow coach Shawn Swords and company to improve their record to 4-6 on the season.
Veteran David Aromolaran paced the blue and gold with a 26-point effort, with Gray (19), Yengue (14) and Watson (12) all contributing nicely. A very top heavy Marauders squad featured a one-two punch of Rohan Boney (32) and Connor Gilmore (22) who combined for 54 points, as the McMaster bench accounted for a grand total of just seven points.
The Voyageurs turned the tables in the paint, recording 40 rebounds on Saturday versus 29 for their adversaries, also doubling the visitors in terms of three point baskets (10 to 5).
With OUA playoff positions this year resting solely on the shoulders of the RPI (Rating Percentage Index) rankings this year, Laurentian find themselves sitting in seventh place in the field of 17 teams, deadlocked with the Nipissing Lakers in sixth and just ahead of the Windsor Lancers.
The Voyageurs are on the road this weekend, facing two of the three remaining undefeated teams in the province.
The locals will look for the upset against the Ottawa Gee Gees (Friday) and Carleton Ravens (Saturday), with both powerhouse squads boasting records of 7-0, before returning home for a key matchup against Nipissing on Friday, Jan. 20.