If the Lakehead Thunderwolves are going to compete in the OUA West, they’ll have to find more mental toughness.
That’s the conclusion reached Saturday by both Justin Bell and Igor Lebov, after the Wolves roared back from a 19-point, third-quarter deficit only to fade down the stretch and hand the Waterloo Warriors just their second win of 2013-14, a 77-71 triumph.
Lebov, who keyed the comeback with a quick seven points in the fourth, said slow starts are proving to be the team’s Achilles heel this season.
“The two first quarters just killed us,” the rookie forward said after a 13-point, seven-rebound effort against the Warriors (2-10).
“We dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of. We came on strong in the second half, which is usually our half, but it just wasn’t enough. The starters just didn’t come out strong enough. I think the energy just wasn’t there. Mentality-wise, we kind of felt we already had it and that was a big mistake to make.”
The Warriors, winners of just one game heading into the contest, were humbled by Lakehead on Friday, victims of a 28-point loss.
The Thunderwolves (4-8) held Jaspreet Gill to just 12 points, but couldn’t contain long-distance ace, the fourth-leading three-point shooter in the nation, when it mattered most.
Gill buried a pair of key shots from beyond the arc, the first erasing a 65-62 Lakehead lead, the second putting the Warriors on top for good, ahead 71-69.
Lebov took full blame for letting Gill get open.
“I didn’t do a great job of that and partially I blame it on our mentality. We weren’t really prepared before the game. It’s not our young guys. It was our leaders who didn’t (show) leadership,” he said.
Bell, the York transfer who finished with 11 points off the bench, said the team has no excuse for the slow start out of the gate.
“It’s kind of hard to say. Because we have a young team, we have been a bit inconsistent. I think it’s a maturity thing as well. We’ve just got to learn how to get a better start,” said Bell, whose younger brother Josh had a five-point night.
Interim coach Matt Erdman said it was a tough loss, and he fully expected the Warriors to make adjustments in light of their lopsided loss the night before.
“I’m not sure we really expected what they were going to bring us,” Erdman said. “A similar situation happened to us in Windsor when we (lost) on Friday and came out a different team on Saturday. Hopefully we can learn from this and build on it.
“They had much better energy and played with more passion. They punched us in the face right away. I’m sure they were embarrassed last night with the result and they didn’t want to have the same result tonight.”
Lakehead trailed by four after one quarter and 12 at the half, but cut the Waterloo lead to six after the third quarter.
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