The Western Mustangs men's basketball team won their fourth straight game and improved to 16–7 on the season with an 81–74 victory over the Waterloo Warriors on Wednesday night.
The Mustangs were led by a pair of offensive explosions from big men Julian Walker and Marko Kovac, who scored 28 and 20 points, respectively, on the evening. Walker's 28 points came on a perfect 12-for-12 shooting performance, while Kovac had a versatile showing that included seven rebounds and three steals.
The game's opening frame saw the Warriors take control early behind third-year forward Nedim Hodzic, who scored 26 points on the night. However, the Mustangs were able to contain the Warriors' offensive attack to Hodzic, ending the first quarter up 20–18.
In the second quarter, the Mustangs and Warriors exchanged buckets while Walker began picking apart Waterloo in the post. The first half ended with Western up 43–37.
The third quarter saw the Mustangs come out strong, outscoring the Warriors 23–16 as three Mustangs had double-digit points totals in the second half alone. While the Warriors would cut into the Mustangs lead with a 21–15 fourth quarter advantage, it was not enough to topple Western as their 4-of-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc proved too much to overcome.
Walker's ultra-efficient offensive performance was par for the course, as the Barrie, Ont. native moved into third place in Ontario University Athletics in field goal percentage, shooting at a 62.6 per cent clip.
"[Twelve-for-12] from the field is an amazing statistic," said Campbell. "Julian ran the floor, spaced well and finish very high percentage looks. He also offensive rebounded very well and converted several those into lay ups. Julian has been taking high percentage looks all season."
With the win the Mustangs took sole possession of second place in the OUA West Division and currently sit in fourth place in the conference, which would give them a bye to the quarterfinals of the conference playoffs.
The Warriors, who haven't won a game since Nov. 24, dropped to 3–20 on the season with the loss. And while a seven-point win against an abysmal cellar-dweller might not look like much on paper, Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell welcomes the momentum as the playoffs rapidly approach.
"Playing well moving into the playoffs is important," said Campbell. "Hopefully we can stay confident and continue to build that confidence as the playoffs move on."
The Mustangs cap off their winningest regular season since 2011 on Saturday against the 10–13 McMaster Marauders. The game will include the program's Senior Night festivities, which will celebrate the accomplishments of the team's departing players.
Then it's on to the playoffs, where the Mustangs hope to make a run to the OUA Final Four. But before then, Campbell still knows there's work to do.
"We need to be more consistent at the defensive end," he said on what his team needs to do to win in the post-season. "We have a tendency to relinquish leads at times due to defensive lapses and break down individually."