By Jesilou Tongio
It took a league-leading scorer, a handful of new recruits and a few games with home-court advantage to lead the men’s basketball team to their best mid-season record in seven years.
After winning their fourth home game in a row against Queen’s University on Jan. 17, the Rams have kept their playoff hopes alive.
A 29 point lead in the fourth quarter and a double-double for forward Boris Bakovic sealed the win and improves the team’s record to 7-6 for the season. And in their first game of their four game homestand on Jan. 16, the Rams snapped their two-game losing streak by defeating the winless Royal Military College with a score of 102-51.
The last time the squad was above .500 at the mid-point of the season was in 2001.
For the past seven seasons, the Rams struggled to win.
When coach Glenn Taylor stepped in, the team gained momentum. And soon the Rams were moving up in league standings.
“Four years ago, I inherited a program that had one win in two years,” he said.
Then we had three wins, then five wins, then seven,”
But the team isn’t out of the woods yet. Their schedule gets tougher before the season ends when they meet rivals York University and Laurentian University twice and reunite with Carleton University, last year’s Ontario champion.
However, Ryerson has a roster of promising new players and strong third-year members, like Bakovic, who was the team’s MVP last year. He leads Ontario University Athletics (OUA) in points, with 315, and rebounds, with 112.
He is confident the team’s skills will carry them through to the playoffs.
“We’re playing well right now,” Bakovic said.
“It’s the little things like execution on plays and playing as a team on defense.”
Even though Bakovic was ranked second in Canada last year and won a spot on the national U-19 team in 2007, he isn’t the squad’s only option to bring home the victories.
“It’s a team game with five guys on the floor and seven more guys on the bench,” he said. “Not one guy can do everything.”
First-year guards Josh Budd and Afeworki Gebrekerestos have been putting in a lot of minutes, with Budd seeing an average almost 30 minutes of playing time per game.
And Taylor said fellow guards N’Kruma Hylton and Ryan McNeilly are key when it comes to playing against veteran teams like the University of Toronto.
“You can see on the score sheets that when [Hylton and McNeilly] score, we have a greater chance at winning,” Taylor said.
But when it comes to the future, Taylor doesn’t see a double-digit loss column like previous years.
The team has a solid foundation to reach their goal of winning more than ten games this year and they are working harder to finish higher in the standings to get home-court advantage in the post-season.
Bakovic is especially looking forward to show their opponents that this year’s Rams are serious.
“Hopefully we can do some damage in the playoffs,” he said.
The team plays York and Laurentian at home on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24.