Ben Johnson is normally a good shooter.
In fact, his coach says, he’s one of the best in the country. However, on Thursday night, he was off his game – way off.
But credit his character and his abilities on the hard court for turning things around in a hurry. On Friday he may have been the hottest shooter out there.
The Pictou, N.S. native was on fire, hitting five of six shots attempted, including all four from three-point territory, his 16 points helping the Lakehead Thunderwolves complete a two-game non-conference sweep of the visiting Winnipeg Wesmen.
Matt Schmidt also had 16 for the Wolves in their 90-80 win.
“Basically last night coach kind of ripped me after the game. I played selfish basketball, I wasn’t looking to pass off the penetration. I was kind of taking it and got tunnel vision,” said Johnson, whose Wolves nonetheless are 4-0 in pre-season play.
“Tonight it was good. We had better ball movement and easier shots.”
It was far from perfect, Johnson said.
Defence, the key to Lakehead’s three straight trips to nationals, is not where the players or coach Scott Morrison wants it to be.
“We’ve got to work on the intricacies of the defence. Right now we’re struggling with that. Scrambles and stuff are all over the place. Sometimes we’ve got two guys closing on one man, leaving guys open. We’ll get it,” Johnson said.
A third-quarter stretch is a perfect example of what the Wolves want to work on.
Having built a 46-31 lead after Johnson opened the half with a three, the Wesmen sunk three straight from long-distance land, including an uncontested three off the fingertips of Jordan Clennon, who led all scorers with 20 points.
It was the start of a 7-0 run that pulled Winnipeg to within four, 52-48.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on our defence,” Morrison said. “It’s not where we thought it was and credit to Winnipeg for exposing some holes. Hopefully we’ll be thanking them for allowing us to work on that before our next game.
“I think we’ve practiced certain areas of the court where we get beat, and other areas we shouldn’t get beaten in I think they were beating us in, places we weren’t use to rotating out to on defence. As a result we got lost. They made a couple extra passes and got a lot of open looks.”
Morrison was pleased with the shooting effort his team put forth, knocking down 29 of 57 shots from the field and 15 of 23 from the line. Seven different Wolves hit three-pointers in the opening half.
“I was happy that a couple of guys that were struggling, like Ben and Dwayne (Harvey), hit a couple of shots,” he said.
The Wolves led 21-16 after one and 43-31 at the half.
Beyond the arc: Greg Carter had a strong game, dishing out nine assists while collecting a team-high six rebounds … Nathan Wainwright and Brendan King sat with injuries, while Michael Thorne Finch dressed, but did not play … Every player who saw court time finished with at least three points, except Yoosrie Salhia, who had one … Anthony McIntosh finished with 10 points, including a pair of first-half dunks … Ryan Thomson and Joe Hart were the other Wolves in double figures … Lakehead heads to B.C. for its next non-conference action, where they’ll take on Victoria and Fraser Valley.
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