By Charles Vanegas
The Ryerson Rams opened up their National Invitational Tournament (RUNIT) with a 79-65 victory over the Chinese Junior National team.
“We were a bit rusty at first (after being off for a month),” said Rams point guard Jahmal Jones. “But as the game went on we were able to get back into our groove.”
Despite being without 7’1” phenom Zhou Qi, who is sidelined with an undisclosed injury, the China U-19 squad held their own against the more experienced Rams. After trailing for the first three quarters, China grabbed their first lead with seven minutes left in the fourth after outscoring the Rams 17-12 in the third.
China was led offensively by guard Jiewi Zhao, who hit six three-pointers and finished with 24 points.
“The scouting report said to let them shoot the three,” said Jones. “We didn’t think [Zhao] could shoot the ball like that.”
But Ryerson was able to stop the comeback down the stretch. Trailing 55-54, Jones sunk a two before stealing an inbounds pass and adding another. From then on, the Rams held the momentum.
“Coming after about a month off, it was good, they really tested us. Give China credit, they made shots to bring it back,” said Rams coach Roy Rana. “I didn’t want to bail our guys out — I didn’t want to take timeouts. I wanted them to feel the tightness of the game. I thought that was important [because] we haven’t had a lot of that lately.”
Jones finished with 20 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds, while Bjorn Michaelsen chipped in 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Rams.
Coca-Cola Court was filled to capacity and featured a mostly pro-China crowd.
The Rams will tip off against the Guelph Gryphons Saturday at 8 p.m. The Rams previously beat the Gryphons 91-43 on Nov. 10 in regular season play.