On Wednesday, January 22nd, the Western Mustangs will take on the visiting Guelph University Gryphons in a West Division rematch.
The game looks to be a battle between polar opposites: the Gryphons are coming off three straight wins, while the Mustangs are looking to right the ship at home after consecutive losses away.
The last time the Mustangs lost three consecutive regular season games was last January, with back-to-back losses to Lakehead University and a third against Wilfred Laurier Univeristy.
In the last matchup on Nov. 30th in Guelph, the Mustangs held off a hot-handed Gryphons with a suffocating defense.
The Mustangs forced 20 team turnovers from the Gryphons, with half of those coming from the Gryphons’ season scoring leader Malcolm Granville. He finished with 11 points, shooting a season-low 25% from the field.
The Mustangs initiated their offense through OUA assist leader Nikola Farkic, who racked up a season-high 14 assists through 36 minutes of action. Senior Omar Shiddo led the way with 24 points on 9-25 shooting.
This match will be the 26th meeting between Guelph and Western since 2005, with the all-time record favouring the Mustangs with 17 wins and 8 losses.
To get back on track, Western needs to do three things in Wednesday's game.
In their last meeting, the Gryphons surged to a 10 point lead early in the game. Clawing back from the hole did not prove to be difficult for the Mustangs and their 2nd-ranked offence (with 86.9 points per game); however, three of their four losses this season came playing from behind after the first quarter.
Establishing an early lead against this hungry Gryphons team will be essential to hold back any possible late-game runs.
The Mustangs forced 20 turnovers from the Gryphons, leading to a team-high eight steals by Nikola Farkic. By containing the Gryphons' leader in minutes, points and assists leader, Malcolm Granville, the Mustangs kept the star player to his second-lowest number of field goal attempts this season.
By keeping the ball away from Granville and forcing difficult shots when he does shoot, the Mustangs can achieve success in their rematch too.
Share the Rock
A 19-point turnaround — from down 10 in the first quarter to up nine by the final buzzer — simply does not happen without a solid team effort. The Mustangs have a quality floor manager in Nikola Farkic and a ready supply of capable sharpshooters in Eriq Jenkins and Jerric Palma, each shooting over 40 per cent for the season.
The Mustangs should look to drive into the paint and create space for outside opportunities for their shooters.