By Thomas Skrlj (video by Daniel Rocchi)
- Rams advance to U Sports semi-finals for third straight year
- Huskies dominate the boards with 52 rebounds to Ryerson’s 35
- Ammanuel Diressa posts team-high 24 points, including 10-11 on free throws
Halifax – The Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team advanced to the U Sports semi-finals after barely beating the Saint Mary’s Huskies in a 79-70 victory at the Scotiabank Centre on Thursday night.
Coming into the tournament as the number one seed, Ryerson should have walked all over the eight-seeded Huskies. But Saint Mary’s dominated the Rams on the boards, out-rebounding the two-time Wilson Cup champions 50-35 to score 20 second-chance points to Ryerson’s seven.
According to Rams head coach Roy Rana, it wasn’t a good enough effort for a team with championship aspirations.
“It’s pretty simple. If we get pounded on the glass like we did tonight, we’ll be out next round,” said Rana. “We got lucky today. They really took it to us and we found a way to make big shots down the stretch but, to be honest with you, I’m not sure we deserved to win this game.”
Despite leading by as much as 12 points in the second quarter, the Rams struggled to keep momentum. The Huskies put up quite a fight, getting to within one point several times throughout the last three quarters, but Ammanuel Diressa and Adika Peter-McNeilly led their team to the victory, scoring 24 and 17 points, respectively.
Both teams struggled from beyond the arc, especially in the first half. By the end of the game, Ryerson only made 28 per cent (7-25) of their three pointers and Saint Mary’s only made 21.1 per cent (4-19), including 0-6 in the first two quarters.
After shrinking Ryerson’s lead to four points heading into halftime, the Huskies used an electric home crowd to carry momentum into the third quarter, punctuated by an 8-0 run off two three- pointers followed by a dunk from Theon Reefer. Reefer finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double, while Achuil Lual added 14 points and a game-high 14 boards.
In the last few minutes of the game, the Huskies had the Rams on their heels as they closed the gap to within a single point with less than three minutes to play. But Peter-McNeilly put together a personal 6-0 run with a layup that turned into a three-point play followed by a three-pointer. Diressa added two of his 10 free throws to put the game out of reach with 32 seconds left on the clock.
While he wasn’t thrilled with his team’s performance, Rana said the Rams can’t afford to dwell on a sluggish start to their third straight national tournament.
“There are no surprises at this level, at this stage and you just have to be prepared for everything, lots of crazy things happen, games are never clean,” he said. “You play it and move on to the next one.”
The Rams will play the host Dalhousie Tigers in a semi-final game on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Carleton will play McGill in the other semi-final.