There’s an old adage in sports that says the best offense is a good defence.
Or is that the best defence is a good offence?
That’s the question on the line at the Thunderdome this weekend, as the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s basketball team looks to continue its second-half winning ways. Only this weekend they won’t have a patsy like last-place Guelph to kick around.
No, this weekend it gets serious, when the OUA’s best offensive unit, the Laurier Golden Hawks (7-3), invade Thunder Bay to take on the league’s best defensive squad.
Something has to give, says guard Greg Carter.
“We’ve just got to keep pushing. They’re going to come out strong. They’ve got guys who can score in bunches,” said Carter, averaging 6.4 points a game for the Wolves. “We’ve just to be able to contain those guys. Kale Harrison is a really good player and if we can stop him I think that will be one of the keys of the game.”
Harrison tops all OUA scorers with a nightly 21.9 point-per-game average, but Carter said the team can’t afford to simply single him out and hope the rest of the offense has an off night. It has to be a blanket attack.
“I think when they run in transition we’ve got to find all their shooters early and make sure we find them off screens, go over all their screens and make sure they don’t get any good looks on offense.”
The last thing the Wolves (8-2) want is to get into a shootout, Carter added.
“No, not at all,” he said. “They’re probably just as good as us shooting the ball … It should be a tough one if we come out trying to outshoot them.”
Fifth-year guard Jamie Searle says facing a team with five shooters who can score from just about anywhere on the court and have size at every position.
But with McMaster holding Laurier to 64 points last weekend, the Belleville, Ont. native said it can be done. The Wolves just have to be smart about it.
“One of the things with the tall guards is they don’t like to be roughed around. They’re not very tough right now. They’re all young kids. They’re great shooters, great scorers, but they haven’t put the size on quite yet,” Searle said Tuesday, as the Wolves ended a grueling practice session.
“If we can get in and muscle them around, and take them out of their finesse game, then we should be able to keep them to lower points than Waterloo did, that’s for sure.”
Searle said there’s no chance Lakehead, playing in front of the hometown fans for the first time in 2011, will focus so much on defence they forget what to do at the other end of the court.
That said, they do have to take advantage of every opportunity when they do have the ball.
“We’re going to have to worry a bit more making sure we’ve got our safeties. And we’re not going to be able to run as much as we’re used to because we’re going to have to worry about stopping them. That’ll be our first thing, is defence,” Searle said. “It’s been that way all year, but maybe we have to pay a little more attention this weekend.”
LU coach Scott Morrison said he’s had a change in philosophy over the years as to what style of play brings a championship home.
In his playing days, it was definitely an offense-first strategy. These days, however, he thinks with his defence first.
“Since I’ve been coaching and learning a little bit more about the game, I’d have to say defence is usually something that can contain the offense,” Morrison said. “But at the end of the day the defence has to give up something, so if they can read what we give them and make us pay with timely shooting, it’s going to be tough for us,” Morrison said.
“They really have no guys we can leave wide open.”
The LU women take on Laurier Friday and Saturday night at 6 p.m., with the men scheduled to tip off both nights at 8 p.m.