The Laurentian Voyageurs men's basketball team will break for the Christmas holiday, undoubtedly pleased with a first half season performance that finds Shawn Swords and company boasting a record of 9-1 and currently ranked seventh in the country.
The Voyageurs closed off the opening six week regular season stretch with road victories over both the Western Mustangs (80-74) and Windsor Lancers (90-63), their only blemish to date a 71-55 setback at the hands of the 9-2 Brock Badgers.
Friday night in London, the visitors showcased some incredible quarter to quarter consistency, scoring anywhere from 19 to 21 points in all four of the ten minute brackets to edge to 5-6 second place (in West) Mustangs.
Starters Kadre Gray (24 pts), David Aromolaran (17) and Nelson Yengue (13) were all prominent, once again, on the scoresheet, with Anthony Iacoe chipping in nicely off the bench with 16 points.
Omar Shiddo (19), Eriq Jenkins (14) and Henry Tan (11) all hit double digits for Western, who were outscored 21-17 over the course of the final quarter, unable to close the 59-57 gap they faced at the end of thirty minutes of play.
The biggest standout stat was undoubtedly in the area of free throws, as Laurentian (21/26) outscored Western (11/17) from the charity stripe. The blue and gold also enjoyed an impressive advantage in rebounding, as L.U. hauled in 41 boards compared to just 23 for the homeside, with Gray (9) and Litha Ncanisa (9) leading the way, followed closely by Aromolaran with seven.
Facing the Lancers the next evening, the Voyageurs were more than just a tad sluggish out of the gate, trailing 22-13 after the first quarter and 39-34 at the half. Thankfully, whatever tactic coach Swords utilized at the break worked wonders as Laurentian dominated the second half to the tune of 56-24, pulling away from Windsor with relative ease.
Topping the scoring charts for L.U. were Gray (22), Aromolaran (17), J.D. West (15), Yengue (11) and Josis Mikia-Thomas (11), with Anthony Zrvnar and Mike Rocca countering with 19 and 12 points respectively in a losing cause for Windsor.
The second half takeover allowed Laurentian to better their opponents in pretty much every statistical category, including field goal percentage (41% vs 371%), three point percentage (32.4% vs 30%), free throw percentage (77.8% vs 55.6%) and rebounds.
While the first half record is nice, everyone involved with the team understands the second half is make or break time for this team. The fact that only Brock can lay claim to a better than .500 record - seven teams in the East, by contrast (everyone except York), have more wins than losses - accentuates the lopsided advantage that the East enjoyed in the stretch of schedule that included almost exclusively cross-over games.
With 16 points at the moment, the Voyageurs trail the Carleton Ravens (10-0) by four, sit equal with both the Ottawa Gee Gees and Ryerson Rams (both at 8-2), and are modestly ahead of both the Queen's Gaels (7-3) and Toronto Blues (6-4).
The Voyageurs will open a very intense second half sequence with four straight home games, welcoming the York Lions (Jan 5th), Queen's (Jan 6th), Ryerson (Jan 12th) and Toronto (Jan 13th) to the Ben Avery Gymnasium.