The McMaster Marauders carried the positive momentum of the holidays back into Ontario University Athletics men’s conference basketball play on Thursday (Jan. 3), defeating the Brock Badgers, 79-73, in St. Catharines.
McMaster transitioned successfully from an impressive showing at the Ryerson University National Invitational Tournament, which saw the Marauders play their way to the tournament final to finish with a 2-1 record.
Thursday’s win improved McMaster to 3-5 while the Badgers fell to 2-6 in conference play.
Sophomore guard Joe Rocca led all scorers with 23 points, converting three of his five, three-point attempts and eight of nine from the charity stripe. Aaron Redpath chipped in 18 points and shot 7-for-14 from the field, while Rohan Boney and Taylor Black both broke into double digits with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Didi Mukendi and C.J. Smith each had 16 points for the Badgers.
Brock took an early lead in what became a swing first quarter, but McMaster responded, powering to a 14-11 advantage midway through the frame. A jumper courtesy of Boney made the score 16-12 with a minute remaining in the first, before the Badgers embarked on a run, scoring eight points in the final 45 seconds of the quarter to take a 20-16 lead after one.
Neither team was able to distance itself early in the second, as the sides repeatedly traded leads. Black ended that trend with 4:30 remaining in the half, draining a three-pointer to give the Marauders a 30-27 lead. Rocca was a constant threat, and led the game with 17 points as the first half came to a close and McMaster clung to a 39-38 advantage.
The hosts retook a slim lead after the break, and held it for much of the third quarter. A Nathan Pelech three-pointer with three minutes remaining nudged the Marauders ahead 49-46, before the Badgers hit back to score nine of the next 11 points.
Redpath took control of the game as the quarter wound down to will the Marauders back into the lead. The sophomore hit two threes in the final two minutes of the third – including one on the final possession of the quarter – to vault McMaster ahead 58-57 after three. Redpath notched 10 of his 18 total points in the quarter.
A razor-close game continued that way as the fourth quarter opened, and a Brett Sanders triple brought McMaster ahead 67-64 with five minutes to play. A long jumper from Rocca – launched just inside the three-point line – and a tight chip in from Boney gave the visitors a four-point lead in the final two minutes.
McMaster seemed to have the game well under control, but a late Brock run brought the Badgers within two points at 75-73 with just 45 seconds on the game clock. Following a timeout, Mukendi stole the Marauders’ inbounds pass and attempted a layup, but was effectively hampered by Scott Laws and missed the attempt.
The Marauders quickly broke with the ball and Boney converted a layup at the other end to put McMaster clear with a four-point lead and only 15 seconds remaining.
Mac will look for win No. 4 on Saturday when the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks visit the Burridge Gym. Tip-off is at 3 p.m.