By Gabriel Lee
The Ryerson men’s basketball team honoured graduating seniors Ryan McNeilly and Steve Williams before Feb. 11’s game for their five years of service to the program by defeating the University of Ottawa, 85-76, for the first time in their five years at Ryerson.
Co-captain McNeilly ended his career in a Ryerson uniform as one of the team’s all-time leading scorers, as he has scored 915 points as a Ram heading into Friday’s game.
“It’s been a long time, it just feels good to have stayed with it,” said McNeilly. “Seven of us came in and two of us are graduating. It feels good to have at least one guy finish with me.”
Williams may be graduating with less accolade than McNeilly, but his role of as a defensive stopper off the bench hasn’t changed much since he made the team as a walk-on five years ago. More importantly, the veteran leadership he provides is invaluable, considering how young this year’s Rams are. He was awarded with a rare start at the center position.
“I wasn’t recruited to Ryerson, but I loved the game so much that I thought why not try out… I’m sad that it’s over but I know I’m moving on to the next part of my life,” said Williams.
“I think my leadership has meant a lot, just by talking to the guys one on one about how to do better in school and how to last because I came in with six guys and I’m only leaving with Ryan right now.”
The Rams showed early on they were determined to win this game by jumping all over Ottawa.
Offensively, the Rams leaned on their rookie-guard Jahmal Jones, who poured in six points in the first four minutes. The Rams were very patient offensively passing up on good looks for better looks, a big reason why they were up early in the game and only trailed briefly the whole game.
Ottawa stayed in the game thanks to Louis Gauthier’s 14 first-half points on 6-7 shooting.
In the second quarter things began to get a little scrappy when Louis Gauthier caught McNeilly with an elbow while they were jostling for rebounding position.
“He was throwing elbows, him [Gauthier] and 22 [Gardner] were hitting people for no reason,” said McNeilly. “They hit some of my guys and I just had enough so I let them know. They called it in our favour, so it worked out.”
The two bumped chests and exchanged words before cooler heads prevailed. Gauthier was assessed a technical foul for initiating the contact. In the fourth quarter, McNeilly stuck up for Jordon Gauthier being fouled hard by Ottawa’s Warren Ward; a double technical was assessed.
The Rams were up 44-37 at the half, ending the half on a 7-2 run. But Ottawa started the third quarter with an 11-2 run, capturing their first lead of the game, 48-47.
Head coach Roy Rana promptly called a timeout to stem Ottawa’s momentum. In the huddle he urged the team to be more aggressive and applied a full-court press to pressure Ottawa’s ball handlers; resulting in the Rams forcing the Gee Gees into 16 turnovers.
In the middle of the third quarter, McNeilly spun into two defenders, got fouled and banked home the layup, putting Ryerson back in the lead 55-53. On the ensuing free-throw, a fan screamed “we want a sixth year Ryan!”
At the end of the third quarter, the teams were tied at 62.
While Ottawa got better shots in the fourth, it was Ryerson who was getting to the free throw line. The Rams’ balanced attack ended up being too much for the Gees Gees to handle.
Jordon Gauthier led the Rams with 27 points, McNeilly added 20 and Ola Adegeboruwa chipped in with 14.
“They keyed in on Ryan and Jahmal as they should,” said Gauthier. “I don’t think they really knew about me which allowed me some space to free myself up.”
With a minute left in the game Ottawa air-balled a three pointer that would’ve tied the game, Adegboruwa leaked out on the fast break and made a layup increasing Ryerson’s lead to 80-75.
From there the Rams sealed the game with accurate free-throw shooting.
“It was kind of an ugly game. At the end we made our free throws and that was the difference,” said Rana.
“We beat number three in the division, now we have to try to beat number one and two. Hopefully we can get a home playoff game and try to win that one here.”
The win moves Ryerson into a tie for third in the OUA East with Ottawa, both teams now have 10-10 record.