By Harlan Nemerofsky
It’s a win, and you’re in situation for the Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team. With just one more win Friday night against the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the Ontario University Athletic (OUA) semi-finals, Ryerson could automatically earn a birth in the national championships. The Rams and the Thunderwolves are set to tip-off Friday night at 6 p.m.at Waterloo University.
The 13-9 Ryerson Rams have defied the odds in reaching the OUA Final Four for the first time since 1999. The Rams started the season slowly at 5-7 but since defeating the University of Toronto on January 19, they’ve won nine out of their last 11 games.
It won’t be easy though for the Rams.
Lakehead have lost only once at home, and they come into the Friday’s matchup riding a 11- game winning streak dating back to January 19.
The last time these teams met in November, the Rams were squashed 95-54. It’s been the only head-to-head meeting between the two interconference rivals.
The Rams reached the final four by fending off the Ottawa Gee Gees 74-71 in the last competitive game held at Kerr Hall Gymnasium before moving their home games to the Peter Gilgan Athletic Centre next year.
Against the OUA’s conference leaders, Lakehead and Carleton University, the Rams have dropped all three games by a combined score of 289- 164.
The Rams certainly enter this Friday’s matchup as the underdog.
If they want to upset Lakehead, the Rams have to make sure to dictate the tempo of their game as they’re the most effective when point guard Jahmal Jones jump starts the offence in the open floor. The Rams will also have to contain Lakehead’s Venzal Russell, who is an OUA West all-star, by forcing him into tough and contested shots.
Another key is to watch out for the long ball against the Wolves, who are fourth in OUA in three-point efficiency and second in three-pointers attempted at over 20 a game.
The marquee matchup is at the point guard position. Jones and Wolves’ Gregg Carter have nearly identical stats in field goal percentage, assists and steals but Jones has a six-point edge in terms of points per game.
The Rams might have the edge offensively with four players who average over 10 points a game compared to just one (Venzal Russell) on the Wolves.
If the Rams have a clear advantage in one category, it’s one that might be immeasurable: they have to use their momentum in their favour after last week’s thrilling win the team is buzzing with energy.
Now, they’ll have to feed on that if they want to punch their ticket to the OUA Finals.
The game will be broadcasted nationally on the Score television network.