It’s a good thing the pre-season is a couple months long. The Lakehead Thunderwolves have a few things they have to work on before the games start to count for real.
On Wednesday, the basketball squad’s first audition in front of paying customers, the Wolves failed on several counts against an aggressive University of Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils opponent, who out-rebounded LU40-13 and hit nearly double the shots from the floor in a 91-76 preseason romp at the Thunderdome.
“Obviously it’s very disappointing to come out with a loss,” said rookie import Joe Hart, a British-born transplant who spent last season playing high school ball in New Jersey.
“We could have played a lot tougher. There’s a lot of stuff we’ve got to work on. But at the end of the day it’s just preseason and we’re going to bounce back tomorrow and going to get at it in practice and come out and get a win.”
Hart was one of several newcomers in coach Scott Morrison’s lineup, on a night that saw returning veterans Yoosrie Sahlia, Greg Carter and Brendan King sitting on the sidelines nursing nagging injuries.
He finished with seven points and an assist in his Thunderwolves debut, but also made a couple of turnovers before fouling out in the fourth.
There’s not much positive to take from this one, he said, a game that saw Lakehead trailing by 13 after one and an equal amount at the half.
“We did get a real slow start. It’s tough when you want to come out and punch the team first and they punch you,” Hart said.
Ryan Thomson, who had just six points at the half, exploded in the final two quarters to finish with 22, one less than UW’s Alex Oman, who wound up with a game-high 23.
Thomson’s efforts helped Lakehead erase much of the Blue Devils lead, pulling LU to within four points early in the fourth, but they couldn’t complete the comeback.
The Blue Devils, an NCAA Division III team that plays out of the nine-team Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, were buoyed a lack of effort by the Thunderwolves on the defensive boards and rolled off a 13-2 run, keyed by a pair of Oman hoops, to take a 15-point lead.
It was not the finish Morrison was looking for.
“We know there are no championships riding on this week. At the same time we have to develop the habits that we’re going to need to try to win one,” Morrison said. “Today I didn’t think we did a very good job of improving on yesterday’s weaknesses.”
This is a team that needs to find its aggressive nature if it wants to salvage a split on Thursday night.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what system you draw up or incorporate, you need some toughness and some aggression and some guys that are willing to just go out and grab the ball. They seemed to have a lot of those guys and we seemed to have very few.”
Ben Johnson, with 11, and Joseph Jones, with 17, were the only other Thunderwolves in double figures. Rookie NCAA transfer Dwane Harvey had eight points in 22 minutes of action, while Superior Collegiate graduate Alex Robichaud made a free-throw for his first official points in an LU uniform, after red-shirting last season.
Court shots: Only reigning OUA MVP Venzal Russell, forward Adam Russell and freshman Sylvestor Alexander are not back from last year’s squad … Morrison has 18 players in camp, including walk-ons Shay Ling (Waterloo, Ont.) and Kent Mendoza (Toronto). Both saw limited action, hitting the court late in the fourth ... Thomson was assessed a technical in the third after arguing a call.