Hamilton, Ont. – The recent history of the head-to-head matchup between the Brock Badgers and McMaster Marauders seems to tell a rather one-sided tale, but even with the defending champions having reeled off wins in 11 of their last 13 meetings with the St. Catharines squad, Brock will be making the short trek down the road with confidence for their clash in the hammer on Friday; this week’s OUA Marquee Matchup.
Part of the reason for the Badgers’ confident demeanor is due to the result of the latest meeting earlier in the season. Wrapping up the month of October, it was Brock that played the role of host, but with an eye on the win, they didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet for the Critelli Cup winners. While Mac was able to burst out in front in the opening half with a nine-point cushion, the Badgers came back with a fury after the break. The home side outscored their opponents by a 23-point margin in the second to collect the comfortable 75-61 win and hand the Marauders an early blow in their championship defence campaign.
While the win against Mac was something Brock hadn’t seen much of since 2014, the victory has proven to be par for the course so far during Brock’s 2019-20 season so far. Brock enters their Friday night tilt ranked ninth in the nation, having only dropped one contest this year. And when looking at the contributions the team is getting from up and down the roster – a roster that features somewhat of a new look this season – the success should be no surprise.
Chief among these contributors is one of the top scorers in the conference – Melissa Tatti (Ancaster, Ont.). The fifth-year point guard, who was named a second-team all-star in 2018, has taken her game to a new level this season, even after being one of the top point producers and passers a year ago. Checking in with 15.7 PPG (4th in OUA), 6.6 APG (1st in OUA), and 2.9 STL (2nd in OUA), the all-around star and quarterback of the team has asserted herself as one of the conference’s elite on the hardwood.
While Tatti runs the back court, the front court is Sam Keltos territory. The St. Catharines, Ont. native returned home to play for the Badgers this season, transferring from a D1 school in New York, and has made an immediate impact for the 8-1 team. According to head coach Mike Rao, “it’s easy to draw up plays when you have a player of [Sam’s] calibre,” and Keltos has executed that trust and play calling into a line of 12.5 PPG and 8.6 RPG (5th in OUA).
Much like Brock’s revamped roster features some standout stars, the Marauders are able to check many of those same boxes. After taking home the provincial and national titles a year ago, the maroon machine lost a few key pieces from their championship roster, but still boast some of the most productive talent across the OUA that has helped them get out of the gates with a 6-2 start. With one of those losses coming at the hands of Brock, however, the Hamilton team will certainly have their sights set on getting back in the win column against the talent-laden Badgers, just like they did three times a year ago.
Once again stepping into a leading role for McMaster is Newmarket, Ont. native Sarah Gates, who like Tatti, was one of the conference’s top scorers from a season ago. She has reprised her role to the tune of nearly 14 points per contest this season, and as a result, the junior guard remains a lynchpin in the McMaster game plan. Gates, however, isn’t the only double-digit contributor suiting up for the Hamilton squad this season.
Matching Gates’ production is Christina Buttenham (Ancaster, Ont.), who not only pours in 13.9 PPG, but also crashes the glass with 8.3 boards and dishes out nearly three assists as well. The senior forward is also the only player in the conference to pick up more steals per contest than Tatti, as Buttenham picks opponents’ pockets 3.3 times per game. Her impressive efforts on both sides of the ball have not only helped her elevate her own numbers across the board, but have made her an anchor of the Marauders all-around arsenal.
Gates and Buttenham have helped Mac collect 71.7 points per game, a stat they have in common with their Friday night foes. Brock’s matching offensive output means the pair are evenly matched on that side of the ball, so the defensive effort will be an important factor in determining the latest marquee matchup victor. In that regard, Mac sits eighth in the OUA by limiting their opponents to just 63.0 PPG, while holding them to just 33.8% from the field (6th in OUA), but the Badgers are the best in the business thanks to their stingy 55.0 PPG performance and 30.6 opponents’ field goal percentage.
With revamped rosters in tow, returning players taking their game to new heights, and top-tier ability on both sides of the ball, a close contest could very will be in store at McMaster’s Burridge Gymnasium on Friday, and as these rival squads get set to hit the court for their second installment of the season, both will be confident in their ability to score the win.
To find out which side will be able to execute once the game tips off, tune in to all the action live on oua.tv at 6:00pm.