With highly sought after recruit Victor Raso in the Thunderdome stands, Lakehead coach Scott Morrison wanted his team to put on a good show.
Take the second quarter out of the equation and that’s exactly what Raso, the son of the ex-McMaster coach, got to witness Friday night.
Yoosrie Salhia scored 22 points, grabbed a dozen boards and even dished out three assists, leading Lakehead to an 80-53 blowout win over the visiting Laurier Golden Hawks.
Guard Ben Johnson broke out of a season-long slump, netting 16 in a game that saw Morrison lift his starter late in the third quarter and coast to the win in the fourth.
It wasn’t quite as easy as it looked, said Salhia, a master of the double-double in his final season with the Thunderwolves.
“I think the important thing is we stuck to our game plan. That’s why the result was what it was,” said the Toronto native, who had 12 first-half points and helped LU jump out to a 25-6 lead after the opening 10 minutes – thanks in part to runs of 12 and nine when neither their offence nor their defence could do no wrong.
The Wolves managed to do something not too many OUA teams can boast, holding senior Max Allin the nation's second-leading scorer, in check, surrendering just 11 points to a player who scored 28 in helping Laurier to a recent upset over first-place Windsor. He followed that up with a school-record 43-point performance in a loss to Guelph, earning CIS male athlete of the week honours in the process.
“It started with guards and their pressure. We’ve got great defenders with Greg (Carter) and Dwayne (Harvey) and off the screens we were just ready for them as bigs,” Salhia said.
Morrison, who doesn’t impress easily, said making Allin a non-factor was exactly what they’d hoped for, though he’s not convinced the Wolves can manage it a second night in a row.
“That’s a pretty big deal and goes a long way toward winning,” Morrison said. “The last thing I told the guys in the room is the kid has too much pride to come in here and not let it all hang out tomorrow and I’m expecting him to come out and try to make a statement tomorrow.”
Morrison, who didn’t get the offence he’d hoped for out of his reserves – Anthony McIntosh had six points in a reserve role – he was impressed with their defence, particularly their rebounding. McIntosh grabbed nine and Joey Nitychoruk, who missed an open dunk opportunity in the fourth, hauled in 10.
Morrison said it doesn’t matter who’s on the court, the Wolves have to start playing like they did in the first quarter all the time, and can’t afford lapses like the second, that saw the Golden Hawks out-score Lakehead 20-18.
“A couple of those quarters and it’s a close ballgame,” he said.
“I thought it was kind of a sloppy game. When it gets sloppy there are a lot of turnovers that results in some transition buckets and stuff like that, up-and-down play. Laurier’s an up-tempo team anyway. So I thought we did a good job on a couple of our game points, getting the ball inside and getting them to a half-court game.”
Beyond the arc: Of the starters, only Ben Johnson and Greg Carter cracked the 20-minute mark … Wilfred Laurier’s Patrick Donnelly was ejected in the fourth after a hard foul on Lakehead’s Alex Robichaud … Lakehead’s Brendan King was sidelined again, and watched the games with crutches in hand.