It would be easy for people to expect a retooled and inexperienced Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s basketball squad to go through some rough patches and growing pains at the start of their season.
Just don’t count Scott Morrison as one of those people.
The Lakehead hoops head coach pinpointed his squad’s inability to follow their game plan as a main reason for their 82-78 loss to the Winnipeg Wesmen in Zanatta Invitational action at the Thunderdome on Friday.
“We recruited good players, they’re smart kids and tonight they got outplayed and didn’t do a good job executing the game plan,” Morrison said. “If they want to say they’re young and that’s why they didn’t do it then that’s an excuse they’re welcome to use, but no one on the coaching staff really believes that true.”
Lakehead spent much of the contest playing from behind after trailing in the first quarter. The Thunderwolves brought the game back even in the fourth quarter, but ran out of gas as Winnipeg replied by taking a four-point edge they would not relinquish.
“We just came out flat and it stayed that way the whole game,” said senior guard Dwayne Harvey. “We wasted a lot of energy getting back in the game, and there was a price for that.”
Leading the charge for Winnipeg was fifth-year forward Steven Wesley, who topped all scorers with 35 points.
Wesley shot 14-18 from the floor, including a pair from downtown, and had his way with the Lakehead defence.
“That’s kind of a pride thing right there. Are you going to let a guy get 32 on you, or are you going to maybe take a couple of fouls before he does that? I thought we were soft on him,” Morrison said, and continued the defence as a whole was off the mark.
“We handled their ball-screens terribly and our weak side defence was basically non-existent. That’s how they got the last two buckets when the game was tied and it’s probably the two main things we talked about halftime so we didn’t do a good job fixing it and the coaches didn’t really get a chance to see if our ideas would work because the guys didn’t fulfill what we wanted to do on the court.”
The Lakehead offence was carried by Harvey, the only returning player to play consistent minutes on last year’s national runner-up squad led the Thunderwolves with 27 points.
Morrison sees Harvey, who was a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line and dragged the team back into the game in the fourth quarter as one of the lone bright spots.
“I think we need to have the ball in his hands as much as possible, and he’s going to have to learn that it’s going to be his role to carry the team on his shoulders sometimes,” the coach said. “I thought he did a great job the first two games.”
Winnipeg led by seven points after the first quarter, and carried the same lead into halftime as the Thunderwolves could not translate defensive stops into baskets on the offensive end.
Lakehead tried mounting runs in the third quarter, but every time the Thunderwolves would get within three points Winnipeg would respond and restore a two-possession lead.
Harvey finally completed the comeback in the fourth quarter, as he willed Lakehead even, but Wesley replied for the visitors.
The veteran knows this is a role he will likely be counted upon to fill throughout the season if the team wants to remain as one of the top conference powers.
“Coach just wants me to be really aggressive and make smart decisions while I’m on the court,” Harvey said.
“I’m the point guard so I pretty much have to lead them, and being the only one returning that played last year there is a lot of pressure on me to make sure we don’t have a down season coming from second place last year.”
Beyond the arc: Anthony McIntosh had a double-double for the Wolves, finishing with 19 points and 11 boards. Eight of those rebounds came on the offensive end…The Wolves only shot 20 per cent from downtown…The Wolves will finish their host tournament with a match against the Brandon University Bobcats on Saturday at 8 p.m.
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