By: Chris Blanchette
The Ryerson Rams narrowly defeated the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, 85-84 in their home opener at the Mattamy Athletic Centre Wednesday night.
The Rams came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, riding some impressive shooting from downtown, they were able to jump out ahead 20-8 early on the Blues.
By just the 5:10 mark in the first quarter, the Rams had already drained six three-pointers. This trend continued through the first quarter and into the second quarter, where Ryerson guard Adika Peter-McNeilly showed why he is largely thought of as a leader on this team. On 4-6 shooting, Peter-McNeilly led all scorers with 13 points at the end of the first half.
Despite shooting just 35.7 per cent from the field, Ryerson’s 36.7 per cent shooting from three-point land was enough to give them the Rams a 45-31 lead going into half.
Whatever it was that University of Toronto’s head coach John Campbell said to his team in the locker room ended up working. The Blues started the second half playing flat out electric. Ryerson’s 14-point lead quickly dissipated as they were forced to call a timeout. Unfortunately the bleeding didn’t stop there. Ryerson surrendered their lead and trailed for the first time in the game. If not for a thunderous dunk by small forward JV Mukama and timely layups by Peter-McNeilly all of the momentum would have shifted towards the Blues. The Rams were lucky to escape the third quarter down only two points after the shooting exhibition put on by U of T.
Peter-McNeilly ignited the Rams offense in the fourth quarter. He continued to drive the lane and create space around the floor for open shots from teammates, as well as coming up clutch by hitting three pointers. The teams traded shots as the game moved into the home stretch.
Around the four-minute mark it became evidently clear that neither team was going to run away with the game. Blues guard Devon Williams, who dropped a team high 23 points, had ice in his veins as he pulled up off the dribble and nailed a three-pointer to put his team back on top by two. With 1:06 left in the fourth, a series of poor inbounds by U of T and foul shots for both teams, the Rams found themselves down by one. With only a few seconds left, Juwon Grannum was able to make the game winning layup securing Ryerson’s first victory of the season.
“I just kept thinking to myself, don’t miss. Thankfully it went in and the game went our way,” Grannum said, smiling after the game.
Peter-McNeilly was able to score a game high 25 points and lead the team through a rough third quarter. He finished the game shooting 8-14 from the field, along with eight rebounds and six assists.
While the Rams came away with the win, Peter-McNeilly admits there are still some things this team needs to work on. “We were taking too many shots from outside and not driving the paint like we wanted to,” he said.
When asked about his role on the team, he made it very clear that he is up for the task of leading this team towards another CIS championship run.
“I’ve looked at myself as a leader all of my life and this is just me coming in and feeling confident. I think about nationals every day. Every day it’s on my mind. Whether I’m practicing, or not practicing, I’m always thinking about it,” Peter-McNeilly said.
Ryerson head coach Patrick Tatham says that leadership on this reloaded team will be no problem.
“The whole preseason Adika [Peter-McNeilly] and Aaron [Best] have been really good leaders, they are actually oozing leadership right now. They’re confident and they’re very good leaders, especially with Juwon [Grannum] leading right behind them.”
Tatham also said he doesn’t want to place any expectations on his team as far as championships go but he believes that this Ryerson team is definitely “championship caliber”.
You can catch the Rams in action Saturday Nov. 14 as they take on the University of Waterloo at the Mattamy Athletic centre. The game starts at 3 p.m.