Dwayne Harvey was watching the OUA men’s basketball scoreboard all afternoon.
Unlike some of his teammates, he knew exactly where the Lakehead Thunderwolves stood, needing only to beat the Guelph Gryphons in their regular-season finale to secure a home playoff date Wednesday against the slumping Western Mustangs.
Those same Mustangs, who have already beaten the Thunderwolves twice this year, hit the post-season on a four-game losing streak, falling out of fourth place in the OUA West on the final day of the season. Harvey and company were only too happy to slip into the spot, though they needed a strong second half to accomplish it.
“I knew if we came out and won there was a possibility we could host. We really wanted to host. We don’t want to go on the road for all three games, or all the games we could possibly get for playoffs,” Harvey said after a 15-point, eight-assist effort that helped LU pull away from a pesky Gryphons squad in the fourth en route to the 70-56 win.
Give full credit to second-year guard Alex Robichaud for the victory.
The former Superior Collegiate all-star showed the skills he used to dominate the high school circuit translate well to OUA play.
Robichaud finished with 21 points and when the Thunderwolves needed a basket to turn the momentum around in the second half, he was their guy.
He scored four straight points in the third quarter to pull the Wolves even at 34-34; then he nailed another to put his side up two, a lead they never relinquished.
“Alex is kind of our do-it-all utility guy,” said coach Matt Erdman, whose team finished 9-13, wining its final three contests after losing its previous three in a row.
“He’s extremely smart and he knows what the coaches want. He’s kind of like an extension of who the coaching staff is on the floor. I can’t say enough about how much Alex brings to the table for us.”
Robichaud, a modest guy with Maritime roots, gave credit to his coach.
“Coach Erdman does a really good job of putting us in positions to be successful. The good thing about our team is that anyone can go off for 20 points on any night. There’s not just one person.”
Robichaud understands just how important home-court can be in the post-season, which was why it was so crucial to secure the weekend sweep.
“Having the ability to host a playoff game is huge. We worked hard all season and what we’re seeing now is finally starting to pay off.”
Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what they did right in a one-point loss to the Mustangs on Jan. 17 and try to forget about the follow-up 26-point defeat a night later.
It’s all about confidence, Robichaud said.
“I think this time we’re going to be a little bit better prepared because we know what to expect. We’re a little closer of a team then we were back then when we played them first.”
Guelph led the contest 24-21 at the half, but were outscored 24-17 in the third quarter and ran out of steam in the fourth when LU bested them 25-15.
Michel Cark, who hit three three-pointers, was the only Gryphons player to crack double figures, finishing with 12.
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