By Ben Waldman
There are three certainties at Ryerson of late: student government quarrels, complaints about the weather and a men’s basketball victory.
Improving their record to 15-2, the Rams men’s basketball team reeled off their ninth consecutive win with an 80-65 result over the Lakehead Thunderwolves (9-7).
After one, Ryerson led 29-3 on the strength of Aaron Best’s signature marksmanship and Jahmal Jones’ pretty passing and it appeared as though the Thunderwolves might not break 10 by halftime.
The final three quarters told a different story.
In the next three frames, Lakehead outscored Ryerson 62-51, but the Rams’ strong start was enough to hold on, despite an uncharacteristically underwhelming finish.
“Quarter number one through quarter number four, we [have] got to play with the same intensity,” said Rams forward Kadeem Green. “On offense and defense.”
Green put up 20 points, six rebounds and two blocks and is now averaging 16.8 points over the last four contests. His contributions are much needed, especially when the Rams three point shot is struggling as it did in the second half, where they made two on 12 attempts.
Every championship-calibre basketball team will testify that the best teams always find ways to win. Head coach Roy Rana was displeased with his team’s inability to match its early success, but was able to see a silver lining.
“It’s difficult [to sustain that effort] when you go up with that much of a lead,” Rana said. “But it certainly exposed some weaknesses that we’ll try to correct in practice.”
Among those weaknesses that appeared were lack of composure, an uncommon occurrence for the well-coached team, and rebounding, with Lakehead grabbing 49 boards to Ryerson’s 40.
Thunderwolves forward Bacarius Dinkins alone collected 14 rebounds, two more than Ryerson’s entire frontcourt.
“We don’t expect to get outrebounded by anybody,” Rana said.
Rams guard Jahmal Jones excelled, finding teammates with picture-perfect dishes and controlling the pace of the game to suit his teammates.
“It’s a game of runs,” Jones said. “I guess we just got too comfortable with that [big] lead. We’ve got to do better.”
Forward Juwon Grannum played well off the bench, though his name might not fill stat sheets. Grannum made countless hustle plays to go along with strong inside seals, leading to easy buckets for his teammates when they needed them most.
On the bright side, Ryerson came away with another win, and Jones knows that he’d rather his team have a game like this now than at next month’s championship tournament.
“Better now than mid-March,” Jones said.
Wins may seem like a near-certainty at this point, but this game reiterated to the Rams that victory is never inevitable.
“We’ll watch the tape, figure out where our deficiencies lie, and we’ll get to work on Monday,” Rana said.
Ryerson next takes on U of T at home on Wednesday, Feb. 11., in the second leg of the BIA Cup. Tip off is at 8 p.m.