By Gabriel Rodrigues
Laurentian’s men’s basketball team is currently 7-2 and sit fourth in the OUA East standings, but head coach Shawn Swords is “not satisfied at all.”
“We have a lot of things we need to do for 40 minutes,” said Swords. “We outworked our opponents for the majority of games, but we have yet to put a full 40 minutes together where we are clicking on offense and defense.”
The Voyageurs started their season in historic fashion, as Laurentian managed to go undefeated in its first game six games of the season, the first time in the Swords era.
Following Laurentian’s 6-0 start to the season, the Voyageurs found themselves ranked as high as ninth in the nation under the Top Ten CIS ranking system.
But, after two straight road losses by the hands of the Western Mustangs (2-8) and Windsor Lancers (6-4), the Voyageurs fell out of the CIS ranks.
However, following the back-to-back losses, Laurentian put together a strong performance on Nov. 29 at the Ben F. Avery Gymnasium when they dominated the Algoma Thunderbirds76-41 to close out the first-half of the 2013-14 campaign.
Swords, in his seventh year as Voyageurs head coach, said despite his team’s success early on this season, he still believes certain adjustments need to be made, especially in the defensive zone.
“We can’t allow teams to have second chance points,” he said. “We definitely need to improve our boxing out, but I think we had a good first-half of the season.”
Although the Voyageurs sit third in the OUA with an average of 84.7 points per game just behind Carleton (96.3) and Ottawa (92.9), their defense is 13th allowing 72.3 points per game.
However, the Voyageurs have many positives to take out of their first-half of the season, as Laurentian guard, Alex Ratte, leads all scorers in the OUA with an average of 26.7 points per game.
Also, Laurentian are proving to be a good ball handling team, since the Voyageurs sit first in the OUA with 160 completed assists throughout their first nine games of the season averaging 17.0 assists a game.
So far, the Voyageurs are 5-0 at the Ben F. Avery Gymnasium this season, and according to Swords, his team is benefiting from the home crowd support.
“Having a loud crowd encouraging us makes the game feel easier,” he said. “(In) home games, you are in your comfort zone and sleep in your own bed, (so) those things help.”
Although the Voyageurs are capitalizing on home court advantage, playing away from home has proven otherwise with Laurentian going 2-2 thus far, which raises some questions of concern for coach Swords.
“On the road is always more difficult,” he said. “We need to rally around each other and generate some more enthusiasm and intensity for the game.”
The Voyageurs’ next game is on Wednesday, Jan. 8 when they travel to Sault Ste. Marie to take on the Algoma Thunderbirds (3-6) at 8 p.m. at the George Leach Centre.
That following weekend, Laurentian will put its undefeated home record to the test when they host the CIS number one ranked team the Carleton Ravens (9-0) on Friday, Jan. 10 and second ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees (8-1) on Saturday, Jan. 11 at the Ben F. Avery Gymnasium with both games starting at 8 p.m.
According to Swords, Carleton and Ottawa will be his team’s biggest test of the season and said in order to stay competitive the Voyageurs “need to be tougher and more physical than them.”
“They are both very skilled (teams),” he said. “We will need to lock them down in the half court and in transition. Offensively, we will have to execute and take the options they give us. They won’t be able to stop everything we do, so that will be important to get good shots off.”