By Chris Blanchette
The Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team defeated the Windsor Lancers 96-77 to advance to the OUA Final, Saturday night at the Mattamy athletic centre.
“We want to make history. We want to do something special for our school,” said Ryerson guard Aaron Best.
Best put up a strong stat line with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals in Ryerson’s semifinal victory.
Despite starting off the game shooting just 1-8, the Rams hit six of their next eight shots and jumped out to a 13-8 lead. Ryerson briefly lost the lead midway through the second quarter but amassed a huge 9-2 run that was capped off by a Kadeem Green baseline dunk. The Rams took a 49-42 lead heading into half.
“We just wanted to keep the pressure on them the whole game and eventually we thought they would wear down. I think the pace we play at played a big part in that,” said Best.
Ryerson’s defense was tenacious. Spearheaded by Green, who tallied five blocks in the game, Ryerson was able to hold Windsor to only 13 points in the third quarter – a clear turning point in a game filled with streaky runs.
The Rams pace eventually exhausted Windsor as they cruised to a 19-point victory over a Lancers team that defeated them at the start of the season.
JV Mukama was big off of the bench for the Rams, scoring 23 points (7-8) and shooting 100 per cent from three-point range (5-5).
Heading into playoffs the Rams suffered a surprising loss at the hands of the Guelph Gryphons, and then had to make a last second shot in order to defeat Queen’s. At the time it seemed the Rams had been declining when they should have been peaking. Despite those two close games, Ryerson head coach Patrick Tatham seemed less than phased.
“I think we needed that loss before playoffs because we hadn’t lost [since November]. We needed that one to shake us up and bring us back to what we’re usually used to doing,” said Tatham.
The Rams now go on to face the Carleton Ravens, who they previously beat 79-62 earlier in the season, and who happen to be the reigning CIS national champions. But that was two months ago, and the Ravens have won seven-straight games, including an 82-74 semifinal win against the University of Ottawa earlier in the night.
“By no means is tomorrow a pushover game. Carleton is not going to take a night off, they are going to come ready for us, especially with what happened during the season,” said Best.
Ryerson has never won a CIS national title, and a win tomorrow night would return them to the CIS Final 8, the place they’ve been looking towards since their semifinal loss to Ottawa last year.
“We’re going for it, we want to be the first team to bring that banner here to Ryerson,” said Tatham.
You can watch the game tomorrow at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, at 8 p.m. as Ryerson looks to capture an OUA championship on their home floor.