Mustangs edged out by NCAA’s Southern Jaguars 72-66

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Written by Andrew Potter

August 17, 2013, LONDON, Ont. (ISN) – When it comes to preseason sports, some fans flee in abject horror, expecting a somewhat unexciting contest. However that couldn’t have been further from the truth on Thursday night at Alumni Hall.

The Western Mustangs and the visiting NCAA’s Southern Jaguars of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, took to the floor for an exciting matchup as both teams fought with pride and determination in the Jaguars’ 72 – 66 win.

As expected, both teams look their lumps while shaking off the rust of an offseason without organized competition, but those in attendance were treated to a hard-fought game as entertaining as any regular season match-up.

The athletically-gifted Jaguars out-muscled the ‘Stangs early on but the flow of the game denied the visitors to build momentum – or much of a lead. The teams thrilled fans with a variety of high-energy moves and long-range shots but poor execution stalled attempts from either team to go on a scoring-run.

‘Quantity-over-quality’ seemed to be the narrative for Western’s balanced attack on offense, as their two-for-eight shooting from three-point territory helped Coach Brad Campbell’s team stay close with the Jaguars, trailing 15-11 after one quarter of play.

“We just need to execute and trust [each other] and move the ball. I wouldn’t say that with the makeup of our team right now that we really have a go-to guy,” said coach Campbell, speaking to his team’s offensive game-plan that worked for much of the game.

“The open man is really going to be that go-to guy for us. We really have to play as a team to be successful.”

The second quarter brought a shift in power in favour of the home-team. Western’s ‘open men’ dazzled with their now-hot shooting touch from deep, converting three-pointers at a 44.4% rate. The team’s veteran captain, guard Quinn Henderson provided the biggest boost in the first half, finishing the game with 16 points, with 12 coming from three-point shots.

The burst of enthusiasm from the Mustangs seemed to spring from an emphatic one-handed transition dunk from London-native and third-year veteran guard, Greg Morrow. The play ignited the Western bench and crowd alike and put coach Roman Banks’ Jaguars on notice.

Improved execution granted the Mustangs a slim lead over Southern at the half, but the stalemate would continue late into the game’s final quarter with neither team holding a lead for more than several possessions. The win would go to whichever team scored the most in the game’s dying minutes.

The Jaguars were able to deny Western’s balanced attack and found their touch on offense just in time to go on the game’s first real scoring-run and seal the win.

The Mustangs’ point-guard Eric McDonald tied the lead for all scorers with 17 points, while Bryce Clark of the Jaguars matched with 17 of his own.

Morrow and Southern’s reserve forward Calvin Godfrey led the game with eight rebounds apiece, with Morrow adding eight points and four steals to his well-rounded performance.

The result of the match will never be more than a footnote on the Mustangs 2013 – 2014 season, but the energy and pride displayed in their loss to Southern has already trumped the memories of last year’s season of youth development and soul-searching.

“The ‘good’ today was that we gave ourselves a chance to win,” said Coach Campbell after the game. “

“We are upset that we lost the game, but at the same time it was a good start and we are pleased with our start to the season. We’re much further ahead at this point than we were at this point last year.”

“We are pleased with that but we are not satisfied,” said the long-time Mustangs’ coach, stopping to meditate on the new trials this upcoming season brings.

The Mustangs will continue to play host to NCAA opponents this weekend when the Marshall Thundering Herd of West Virginia stop by Alumni Hall for an afternoon friendly on Sunday, August 18th. Tip-off is at 3:00 p.m.