By Sean Fitz-Gerald
Basketball is a game of percentages. Field goal, three point, and free throw percentages must all be high if a team hopes to win the average game.
Ryerson’s game against the Western Mustangs last Saturday was not your average game, however. It was the Ontario University men’s championship, and Ryerson lost the numbers game with the final score of 87-70.
The most damning statistic for the Rams was not on the score sheet, and it was not the fact the Mustangs were ranked number two in the country, but it was plainly visible on the court. Three of the team’s starting five were either sick or injured.
The only things that may have helped the Rams were the 200-or-so insanely loud fans, and the T.V. timeouts. Since ONtv was covering the game, ill Ryerson players were given extra timeouts to catch their breath during the game while the station went to commercials.
OUA East rookie of the year Ben Gorham hadn’t slept well all week because he was battling through flu-like symptoms and couldn’t breathe well on the court.
Sasha Ivankovic, the team’s star centre, also had an infection. Every time he ran down the court, he said his throat dried out and he too had difficulty sicking back oxygen.
Finally, OUA East divisional playoff hero and MVP, Jan-Michael Nation, aggravated a groin injury in the first half and played the rest of the game through pain.
Even with 60 per cent of its starters unhealthy, the Rams kept the game close through much of the first half.
After going up 6-2 to start the game, Ryerson was put on their heels by the Mustangs’ ultra-quick transition game. The score was close until the first half neared its conclusion and Western opened up the 11-point lead it took into halftime.
In the second, Western only outscored Ryerson by four points. Granted, they still won by 15, but the Rams still proved they could play with the top-ranked Mustangs.
As the Mustangs posed for pictures on the court one floor above Ryerson’s dressing room, a pale and pasty-looking Ivankovic stood outside the room coughing.
“I was sick all week and it just got worse,” the 6’6” centre said. “I don’t know what it is, but my throat keeps getting dry right away and I’m coughing all the time and that doesn’t help out there.”
“We knew we could come back,” he said in between hack attacks after the game. “We pressed them and they don’t like our press. When we press right we can cause some turnovers and get back in the game.”
Ryerson is one of a handful of teams that uses the press. The strategy calls fr the Rams to pressure the opposing team by doubling the ball carrier, forcing him to make a bad, or risky pass.
Nation doesn’t blame his team’s health on the loss.
“They kicked our butts today and this is a chance to wake up, correct what we did wrong and work on some systems,” the rookie forward said.
Rams captain Brian Smith played the full forty minutes and led his team in scoring with 16 points. He said Ryerson will rebound in Halifax this weekend.
“If everyone gets healthy we’ll be fine,” he said. “And everyone will be healthy.”