OUA Central challengers clash Saturday as No. 6 Marauders take on No. 5 Badgers

OUA Central challengers clash Saturday as No. 6 Marauders take on No. 5 Badgers

BURLINGTON, Ont. – For the second time in just 10 days, the No. 6 nationally ranked McMaster Marauders and No. 5 Brock Badgers will meet in an OUA Central Division showdown.

Tipoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. from the Bob Davis Gymnasium in St. Catharines.  Fans can catch all the action streaming live Saturday on OUA.tv.

On Nov. 11, the Badgers and their supporters stormed Burridge Gymnasium on the campus of McMaster University, upsetting the then No. 3 ranked Marauders, 72-71.  Fourth-year forward Dani Elgadi (Waterloo, Ont.) led the way for Brock with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while McMaster forward Connor Gilmore (Etobicoke, Ont.) countered with a game high 25 points for the Marauders.

After a back-and-forth opening half that saw the hometown Marauders take a five point, 35-31 lead into halftime, the Badgers opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run to retake the lead.  Behind the support of a rowdy Badgers contingent of fans that made the trip from St. Catharines, Brock carried a 51-48 lead into the fourth quarter. 

With the game tied 65-65 and under a minute to play, the Badgers forced McMaster into a pair of turnovers, helping Brock extend their lead to 70-65.  Despite Gilmore adding two three pointers in the final seconds, it wasn't enough as the Badgers held on for a slim 72-71 win.

In four games this season for McMaster, Gilmore is averaging 19.8 points per game to go along with 11.0 rebounds per game, which ranks him second in OUA.  Despite the small sample size to begin the season, the Etobicoke, Ont. native appears poised for a breakout season after averaging 10.6 points per game a season ago.

Another reason for the Marauders hot start this season has been the play of fifth-year guard Rohan Boney (Oakville, Ont.).  Boney, an economics major, is averaging 17.5 points per game and leads the Marauders in both assists per game (4.3) and blocks per game (1.5).

The Marauders are coming off a big 92-77 win over the visiting Guelph Gryphons on Wednesday and will look to keep it going on Saturday in St. Catharines.  Boney had a game high 24 points in the win, while Gilmore had a double-double, 21 points and 10 rebounds, in 31 minutes of action.        

For the Badgers, it begins (but definitely doesn't end) with Elgadi, who was named an OUA all-star and a CIS all-Canadian last season.  Through three games, Elgadi is averaging 17.7 points to go along with 10.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks, which leads OUA.  Elgadi, who was named OUA Rookie of the Year and to the all-rookie team in his first year in the league, averaged a double-double last season with 19.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.

From one Rookie of the Year to another, Brock guard Johneil Simpson (Toronto, Ont.) is another player that the Marauders will have to contain if they hope to prevent a season sweep at the hands of the Badgers.  The Toronto, Ont. native is averaging 11.0 points per game despite just shooting 35.5 percent from the field early in the season.

Through three games, the Badgers have struggled shooting the three and things won't get any easier on Saturday as the Marauders boast the best opponents three-point percentage (25.3) in the league.  For McMaster, a key to the game will be limiting the Badgers free throw attempts as Brock is averaging 18.7 free throws per game to lead OUA so far this season.

The Badgers have found themselves in several close games to open the season and if their previous meeting is any indication, Saturday's showdown could come down to the final seconds as well.  Brock opened the season with a slim 71-69 home win over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues before beating the Marauders.  The Badgers had a little more breathing room in their most recent game, defeating the visiting Guelph Gryphons 86-75 last Saturday.

For McMaster, a weekend road trip to Thunder Bay, Ont. to open the season saw the Marauders start the season off on the right foot, sweeping their two-game series with the Thunderwolves.  The Marauders opened the season with an 82-76 victory over Lakehead on Nov. 11 and followed that up the next night with a 62-56 win.      

Saturday's game is especially important for both teams as just two points separated the two teams in the standings last year with McMaster (14-5) finishing first in the Central, followed closely behind by Brock (13-6). 

If that isn't enough, both teams will be especially hungry for a win this weekend as a road trip to take on the No. 1 ranked Carleton Ravens and No. 5 uOttawa Gee-Gees awaits both squads to wrap up the 2016 portion of the schedule.