Courtside Seats: Lucky number seven keeps the Mustangs galloping atop the West

Courtside Seats: Lucky number seven keeps the Mustangs galloping atop the West

Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)

With under a month left in the regular season, it may be time to join the #RunWithUs movement.

The Western Mustangs ended this past weekend by extending their winning streak to seven games, and they are one of the hottest teams in the country. With one of their key veterans back in the mix, the Mustangs are riding high with a full rotation at coach Brad Campbell’s disposal, and that’s bad news for the rest of the West Division. They lead a three-horse race for top spot in the division through 16 games, putting themselves in prime position for the top seed heading into the 2019 OUA Championships.

However, the Mustangs’ continued success wasn’t the only storyline to emerge from the weekend. One of the country’s top scorers strengthened his case for the league’s top individual honour by averaging a mere 39.0 points per game on the road in two wins for his respective team. With Kadre Gray (Toronto, Ont.) looking to repeat as the OUA Men’s Basketball Player of the Year, the statement from his top contender was loud and clear this past weekend up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Here are the top storyies from the past week that you may have missed from across the OUA with a special shout-out at the end.

Lucky number seven has Western alone atop the West Division

The number seven is widely considered as the luckiest number of them all. For the Western Mustangs, it represents the length of their current winning streak after another perfect weekend has them sitting alone atop the OUA West Division.

As of late, the Mustangs have been one of the hottest teams in the country, and they are riding their wave of momentum towards a top seed in the OUA playoffs in February/March. And after a weekend sweep that saw the Mustangs pick up wins over the Waterloo Warriors and Guelph Gryphons, Western completed a perfect 5-0 home stand inside Alumni Hall and now sit at 12-4 overall. They are full of confidence and are playing their best basketball of the season right now, which tends to be a recipe for success in the OUA.

This season has been a coming out party for guard Omar Shiddo (Toronto, Ont.). The third-year guard leads the team with an average of 20.1 points per game, putting him fourth among all men’s basketball players in the OUA. He is shooting 36.9% from the floor, 36.3% from three-point range, and 72.4% from the free throw line over the course of the season. Shiddo has emerged as one of the premier scorers in the league, and his strong offensive play has the Mustangs flying high.

Western’s strong play also comes as a bit of a surprise this season given the fact that they were without the services of veteran forward Marko Kovac (Windsor, Ont.) for most of the fall semester. The 6’5’’ forward has played in just seven games this season, five of which have come after the Christmas break. He still ranks second on the team in scoring with an average of 13.0 points per game to go along with 4.7 rebounds. His return only adds to the talent level that the Mustangs have on their roster heading towards the playoffs.

Western went 6-3 in the absence of Kovac to successfully weather the storm without one of their veterans.

As is the case across the college basketball landscape both in Canada and south of the border, experience wins. The Mustangs have experience in spades this season as five of their top seven scorers are all veteran players with a wealth of experience to their names. Western has seven players who are averaging at least 5.7 points per game, giving them a balanced offence that features veterans and future stars in the OUA.

With five players who are in either their fourth or fifth years of eligibility, the time is now for the Mustangs to contend for a league title.

Ali Sow makes his case for OUA Player of the Year

Last season, he was the OUA Rookie of the Year. Now, Laurier Golden Hawks’ guard Ali Sow (Ottawa, Ont.) has his sights set on the top individual prize in year two.

After a pair of standout performances this past weekend against the Algoma Thunderbirds, Sow is averaging more than 26 points per game to rank second in the conference in scoring. At 26.8 points, Sow has seen his offensive production increase by more than 10.0 points per game compared to his total as a first-year student-athlete in 2017-18 (16.5 PPG).

But, as he has shown at times this season, he is more than just an elite scorer in the OUA.

Through 16 games, 15 of which have been starts, Sow is averaging 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, while also racking up 25 steals on the defensive end. He is one of the top scorers in the country, regardless of conference, but he also brings more to the table that makes him a threat on both ends of the court.

This past weekend, Sow had his full offensive arsenal on display in a pair of wins for Laurier over Algoma to keep pace atop the West Division with the Mustangs.

On Friday in the first game of the weekend between the Golden Hawks and the Thunderbirds, Sow posted his sixth regular game with 30 or more points this season in a 21-point road win for Laurier. In their 89-68 victory, Sow went for 37 points to go along with four rebounds and two assists. Sow went 15-of-27 (55.6%) from the floor on the night and 5-of-13 (38.5%) from three-point range.

Little did we know at the time, but that was a sign of things to come for the Ottawa-native over the weekend.

Algoma and Laurier took to the court again on Saturday to close out their weekend set, and while this game needed overtime, the result was still the same for the Golden Hawks. An extra five minutes was needed to decide a winner, and the Golden Hawks emerged with the 96-87 victory to sweep the weekend series against the T’Birds.

Sow was once again at the forefront of the attack, erupting for 41 points on 15-of-27 (65.2%) shooting from the floor and 8-of-13 (61.5%) shooting from three-point range to carry Laurier to their third straight victory. It marked the second time this season in which Sow eclipsed the 40-point mark. He went for 44 points back on November 24 in a 108-103 win over the Nipissing Lakers.

Throughout the 2018-19 season, and his career for that matter, Sow has been one of the more consistent scorers in the OUA. This year alone, he has posted double-digit points in 15 of the Golden Hawks’ 16 regular season games, and his total climbs to 20 games if you count the five exhibition contests he played before the season began. Night in and night out, Sow is a leader on offence for the Golden Hawks and he is a massive reason for the team’s success this year.

Laurier sits at 11-5 on the season and they trail Western by just two points for first place in the West Division. The two teams square off on January 30 inside Alumni Hall in London, Ontario, and it will be a game that could very well decide who wins the division ahead of the 2019 playoffs.

Special shout-out to the Lakehead Thunderwolves for eclipsing their win total from all last season (2) with their 93-79 win over the McMaster Marauders on Saturday night on the road in Hamilton.