By Harlan Nemerofsky
Of the eight teams headed to Halifax, the Ryerson Rams had the worst regular season winning percentage, but it doesn’t really matter how they get there, what matters is that they’re here.
The Ryerson men’s basketball team, who booked themselves a spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) Final 8 by appearing in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) finals, will begin their quest for a national title in a three-round tournament in Halifax starting Friday night.
As quickly as the Rams were pounded by the Carleton Ravens, the number one ranked team, under a week ago, they’ll have to lick their wounds and recover tonight. Their next foes also won it all but they did it in the Canada West Universities Athletics Association (CWUAA). The deadly Alberta Golden Bears will be a tough test for the upstart Rams in the quarter-final.
Although their records – 14-6 for the Bears and 13-9 for the Rams- are similar, that’s about where it starts and ends. Against the teams that qualified for the final 8, the Bears are 3-0 and the Rams are 1-4, Ryerson’s only win coming last weekend against Lakehead.
The Rams are going up against a squad that is strong defsensively but has a hard time scoring. The Bears, winners of their last eight, were the only team in CWUAA to allow less than 70 points per game and were second in field goal percentage defense. They were amongst the bottom six in both field goal percentage and points per game with 79.8.
The Rams also struggled to score, scoring just over 74 points per game but allowing less than 71. They were second in the OUA with an opponents’ rebound per game of 28 but were in the bottom eight in rebounds with 32.
Returning to the CIS championship after a three-year hiatus, the Bears boast first-team all-star guard Jordan Baker and second-team all-star guard Daniel Ferguson.
Baker’s numbers reflect a monster double-double year. The 6’7 guard was sixth in scoring with 16.9 per game and was third in rebound with 10.4 per game all while shooting an efficient 48 per cent. Ferguson, meanwhile, lit up the box score with the fourth most points per game at 19.7. He shot a blistering 86 per cent at the free throw and played more minutes than anyone else in the CWUAA with 35.6 per game.
The Rams counter with a back court lead by first-team all-star Jahmal Jones and a front-court lead by fifth year captain Luke Staniscia. Jones, Ryerson Athletics’ 2011 Male Athlete of the Year, lead the OUA in total minutes played with 749, was fifth in the league with 4.5 assists per game and was fourth in steals averaging two per game. The 6’5 Staniscia, appearing in his last few CIS games, is fourth in rebounding averaging 7.8 per game.
Including Jones, the Rams received three individual player awards, the others going to first-team rookie Aaron Best and second-team all-star Jordan Gauthier. Best tore it up, shooting 52 field goal percentage while Gauthier averaged a team-high 15.5 points per game.
This is a game that was marked by durability and competitive edge. The Golden Bears have of the best defences in the country and will be hard to guard down-low. The Rams will have to bring the momentum early and keep thumping on that gas pedal like they did in the game against Lakehead. Speed and quickness always mean success to this youthful team but in this case, they’ll have to combine that eagerness to score with a crutch on taking smart shots.
No matter what the score, the Rams can’t give up defensively as they did against the Carleton Ravens in the OUA finals; otherwise they’ll suffer a similar fate.