Now these are the Lakehead Thunderwolves we were promised in the preseason and came to expect after three straight trips to nationals.
Bounced from the CIS top 10 earlier in the week, courtesy of a 1-4 start against the Beasts of the OUA East, the men’s basketball squad claimed a measure of redemption Saturday night – and sole possession of second place in the OUA West – crushing the visiting York Lions 93-57.
Joseph Jones, whose acrobatic, 12-point second half helped propel Lakehead to the 36-point win, said keeping it simple is how the Wolves rediscovered their winning ways and finished the first half on a two-game winning streak.
“We lost our way, we forgot how we got to where we were from the past years. We just had to start all over again from square one, put that rough start in the books, put it behind us, and keep battling from here,” said Jones, who finished with 17 points to lead all scorers, in a game that saw not one Lions player hit double digits.
The one-sided triumph is even more impressive considering the two sides – who briefly tangled on court after the win – were tied 22-22 after the opening quarter, a Richard Iheadindu buzzer-beater erasing an early three-point Lakehead lead.
“We just kept attacking, we stuck to our game plan and that’s what coach has been preaching to us,” Jones said. “That’s all we wanted to do. No matter what the score was, we didn’t want to get too loose.”
And in a game like that, frustrations do tend to boil over, evident as the Wolves took a 24-point lead after three and stretched it as high as 38 points, including a gravity-defying dunk by Joey Nitychoruk and a late three-pointer by Joe Hart with just seconds left in regulation.
“I guess they got a little frustrated. We weren’t looking for anything serious, we just wanted to make sure all our players were safe down there,” said Jones, whose teammates were nonetheless watched over by campus security to ensure the shenanigans didn’t spill over into the locker-room area at the Thunderdome.
“We weren’t trying to cause anything.”
Jones, who hit a pair of three-pointers, said the T-Wolves are lucky to be in second place at this stage of the season, but warned the rest of the OUA they aren’t a sub-.500 team and will be gunning to prove it in the second half.
“Obviously we showed what we can do tonight. If we can just continue to put games together like this, then we’ll be fine.”
Of course LU’s recent success coincides with the return of injured forward Ryan Thomson to the lineup. Thomson contributed 13 points and five rebounds in just 21 minutes of action in his second night back.
Lakehead coach Scott Morrison said his presence forces other teams to think twice.
But Thomson isn’t the only reason the Wolves have found success, Morrison said.
“(Thomson) really helps our offence gel when he’s on the floor, but I think the biggest difference is defensively we did a better job this weekend. We’ve made a couple of adjustments from what we were doing in the first part of the year and I thought it paid off well and hopefully we’ll be even better when we get a chance to work on it after Christmas.”
Other Wolves in double figures included Ben Johnson with 17, Hart with 11 and Greg Carter, who also had four steals and combined with Dwayne Harvey to force turnovers at several key points in the contest.
Nick Tufegdzich and Daniel Tulloch led the Lions (4-4) with eight points apiece.
Beyond the arc: The Wolves are back on the court starting Dec. 28 at the Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg … Anthony McIntosh sat this one out … Lakehead was 11-for-27 from three-point territory, while York hit just three of 18 from long distance … Toronto (2-6) is the only team in the OUA East with a losing record. Windsor (5-2) is the only team in the OUA West above .500.
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