Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)
Through two weeks, the 2018-19 season has given fans across the province its share of excitement on the hardwood.
Fans have seen several blowout wins, with only seven games being decided by 10 points or less thus far. On the flip side, there have been 20 games that have been decided by at least 15 points. Only one team has topped the 100-point mark through the first two weeks of the season, and that came on October 26 when the Lakehead Thunderwolves put up 110 in their win over the Algoma Thunderbirds to open the season.
Atop the standings, two teams in each division remain without a loss to their name, surpassing all challenges presented to them thus far in the season. With that said, the season is far from over, and things will surely change between now and the Critelli Cup final come March.
From impressive individual performances to strong team showings on both ends of the court, here’s what you may have missed from the past seven days across the OUA.
Lakehead has the top duo that nobody is talking about
Through four games this season, the Lakehead Thunderwolves may be the biggest surprise across OUA on the women’s side of things. Sitting at 4-0 after two weeks, the Thunderwolves are riding a wave of momentum that they will look to carry through to the Christmas break and beyond.
Leading the way for Lakehead is a pair that make up arguably the top duo in the OUA, yet they aren’t garnering the headlines like their stat lines would suggest they should.
Forward Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas) and guard Nikki Ylagan (Mississauga, ON) have been putting up impressive numbers over the course of the 2018-19 season, both in exhibition play and in the regular season. Both Grant and Ylagan have been consistent forces on the offensive end, while Grant is one of the top rebounders across the entire OUA.
In all nine games this season, spanning both exhibition and regular season action, Grant has recorded double-digit points. She has seven games with at least 20 points, topping the 30-point plateau in two of them. Grant also has six double-doubles to her name, two of which have come in the regular season. Against Algoma, Grant posted 26 points and 18 rebounds.
Not to be outdone, Ylagan has been posting a bevy of impressive stat lines on the offensive end of the floor as well. Much like Grant, Ylagan has been a consistent force on offence, recording eight games with double-digit points over nine appearances. She has recorded double-digits in all four regular season games, helping guide Lakehead to their 4-0 start.
Here’s a look at their stat lines through four games this season:
Grant: 21.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.5 spg; 53.1% FG
Ylagan: 21.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 3.0 spg; 57.7% FG
Both players have been highly effective from the floor in the early part of the season. Their identical 21.0 PPG averages account for 48.4% of the team’s average offensive output on a nightly basis. As a team, Lakehead is averaging 86.8 points per game on offence, while holding opponents to just 54.3 points per outing.
Lakehead also takes good care of the basketball, committing just 8.3 turnovers per contest. On defence, they are racking up 12.5 steals per game, which helps to kickstart their high-powered point-producers. They are winning games as a cohesive unit, but the duo of Grant and Ylagan have certainly been leading the way to help the Thunderwolves ride high into the third week of the year.
McMaster, Carleton look to be on a collision course
Last year, the OUA was represented by the Carleton Ravens and the McMaster Marauders on the national stage, and through two weeks of play this season, the two teams appear to be on another collision course for the OUA crown, but a pair of teams may stand in their way.
The Marauders and Ravens are two of the last four teams who remain undefeated early in the season, along with Ryerson and Lakehead. McMaster is two points behind the Thunderwolves with a game in-hand in the West Division, while the Ravens and Rams are tied atop the East Division with six points apiece. The standings will undoubtedly change as the season unfolds, but the top seeds provide a lot of intrigue for fans.
Carleton secured their first-ever Bronze Baby trophy last season and they have their sights set on defending their national championship this season. Through three games, they have passed each test put in front of them. In their season opener, the Ravens had to sweat right down to the final buzzer before they secured a 58-56 win over Ottawa. From there, home wins over the Laurier Golden Hawks and Waterloo Warriors have the Ravens sitting at 3-0 through two weeks.
The Ravens have been a model of consistency over the last two-plus seasons, as they have just one regular season loss to their name since the start of the 2016-17 campaign.
Last year, the Marauders lost both of their games in the U SPORTS Final Eight tournament, ending their run much earlier than anticipated. McMaster, however, has a veteran group back this season led by the likes of Linnaea Harper (Newmarket, ON; 18.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and Hilary Hanaka (Hamilton, ON; 16.7 ppg).
McMaster has cruised in their first three contests, winning each by at least eight points. They opened the season with a convincing 75-33 win over Waterloo. From there, they faced a much tougher test at home against Windsor, but the Marauders knocked off the Lancers, 74-66. Last week, McMaster rolled to another double-digit victory, cruising past the Brock Badgers on the road, 81-62.
Both Carleton and McMaster are ranked firmly inside the U SPORTS Top 10 ranks, with Carleton in the top spot and the Marauders entering play last week ranked third. With two of the top teams in Canada calling the OUA home, it seems to be inevitable that the two will meet with the OUA title on the line.
Four teams are still searching for win No. 1
Wins don’t come easy in university basketball, but thankfully, it’s a long season.
On the opposite side of the spectrum of those aforementioned undefeated squads are four teams still looking to pick up their first win of the season. The Brock Badgers, Waterloo Warriors, Nipissing Lakers, and Algoma Thunderbirds are all still looking to get into the win column in 2018-19, and while some have come close to this point in the year, none of them have been able to break through and secure a victory.
This week, at least one of the four teams will pick up a win, as the Badgers are on the road to take on the Lakers in what will be the first road game of the season for Brock. All three of the Badgers’ losses have come on their home floor, which is something that no team wants, especially as they kick off their campaign. The road trip will feature games against Nipissing on Saturday following a contest against the Laurentian Voyageurs on Friday night.
Nipissing, meanwhile, hosts McMaster on Friday before welcoming Brock to town.
For the Thunderbirds, they are heading on the road for a pair of games this week. Up first, Algoma will take on the Queen’s Gaels in Kingston before heading to London for a Saturday tilt with the Western Mustangs. At 0-4, the Thunderbirds will be looking for a strong showing on both ends of the court to pick up their first win of the season.
The young Waterloo Warriors, finally, will be in Toronto for two games over the weekend against the Ryerson Rams and Toronto Varsity Blues. Next to playing Carleton and Ottawa, the trip to Toronto is a big test for any team across the OUA, no matter the level of talent and experience on the roster. The Warriors will look to find their groove on offence and notch their first win of the season in the process.