By Sean Tepper
The scheduling gods did not do any favours for Ryerson’s young basketball team, as the Rams kicked off the 2010-2011 season with back to back home games against two teams who finished last season in the top three of the Western Conference.
While the Rams won in a 75-70 comeback victory, Friday’s home opener against the McMaster Marauders had the early makings of a disaster.
In the first 13 seconds of the game, highly touted rookie forward Bjorn Michaelsen jumped to block a layup and collided in midair with McMaster’s shooting guard and co-captain Ryan McNeilly. The midair collision resulted in Michaelsen leaving the game after losing three of his teeth, while Mcneilly left the game with a gash in the back of his head.
Matthew Lapointe replaced Michaelsen, while rookie guard Jordan Gauthier replaced the fifth-year captain. However, Lapointe’s time on the court ended abruptly, as the second-year forward left te game with a third degree ankle sprain at the end of the first quarter
“When you lose three guys of that importance it’s great to be able to show some fortitude and win that type of game,” said head coach Roy Rana. “We showed some mental and physical toughness against a bigger and stronger team.”
Led by Scott Laws, who scored a team high 20 points, McMaster held the lead throughout most of the game, but the Marauders were unable to pull away from the Rams who kept cutting into the lead.
Their persistence paid off, as the Rams scored 29 of their 75 points off of McMaster’s turnovers. Rookie forward Jelane Pryce hit a three-point shot with one minute and 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter which gave the Rams their first lead of the game and proved to be the deciding factor in the Rams’ 75-70 win.
Despite not making a shot in the first quarter, rookie point guard Jahmal Jones showed the sell out crowd at Kerr Hall Gym why he was such a coveted recruit. While Jones only shot a 38 per cent from the field, he managed to score a game high 24 points.
“Jahmal is Jahmal,” said Rana. “He is a confident young man and if [his shot is not falling he’ll find other ways to have an impact on a game. There was a reason why I recruited him as hard as I did.”
Another telling statistic is the fact that Ryerson’s rookies combined for 53 of the team’s 75 total points in spite of the team only shooting 42 per cent from the field.
“It’s huge starting 1-0 because it builds confidence in a young team,” said college transfer Adegboruwa , who scored 13 points in his Rams debut. “[Tonight’s win] sends a message to the CIS that we can compete with any team.”
Both players and coaches alike were pleasantly surprised by the amount of support that they received from their fans and are excited for the remainder of the season.
“The first thing that I said to the team when I got here was that the days of rye high are over,” said Rana. “For such a young group there is great excitement in the university and in the Toronto basketball community, I think we are building something special [at Ryerson].”
Less than 24 hours after their first win, the Rams were back on the hardwood against the Lakehead Thunderwolves. Just like last night, the Rams showcased their youth, in a les positive way as they lost to the Thunderwolves 101-74.
While the Rams kept trading the lead with the Thunderwolves, it was obvious that their offense was not running at full capacity. Jordan Gauthier, who scored a team high 21 points thanks to shooting 85 per cent from behind the arc, was the Rams’ only consistent player.
“We didn’t have anyone other than Jordan play well,” said Rana after the game. “It’s hard to win a game when you only have one guy going.”
The only reason that the Rams were able to hang around as long as they did, was because of their solid defensive play. Despite the effort, Ryerson’s defense collapsed in the fourth quarter as Lakehead closed out the game on a 33-15 run.
“I think we broke down mentally and our defence started lacking,” said fifth year forward Steve Williams. “They went on a run and we couldn’t bounce back from it.”
The rams will go on a road trip this weekend, where they will face the sixth ranked Western Mustangs on Friday and the Windsor Lancers on Friday.
“You lick your wounds and you snap back to reality,” said Rana. “It doesn’t get any easier on the road next week.”