By Libaan Osman
OTTAWA—The Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team couldn’t withstand the smothering defence of the undefeated Carleton Ravens as they fell 84-58 in the OUA Wilson Cup championship game.
Ryerson had won the previous two league championships, beating Carleton both times, first on home court, in 2016, and then in Ottawa last season. But the Rams couldn’t complete the three-peat Saturday night, even if at times they appeared to be on the verge of finally nicking the Ravens’ seemingly impenetrable armour.
Ryerson was within striking distance, down eight heading into the second half, but the Ravens did what they normally do in the beginning of the third: crush the dreams of their opponent—quickly, mercilessly, methodically.
After going on a 16-0 run to begin the quarter, it was smooth sailing for Carleton from that point on, as they cruised past Ryerson to win the Wilson Cup, their tenth provincial title.
It was a David vs. Goliath-type matchup at the Raven’s Nest, and an 11-0 start for Carleton put the pressure on the two-time defending OUA champion Rams early on, said Ryerson forward JV Mukama, a versatile swingman who struggled to find his touch against the Ravens.
“We were playing at their pace and into their hand,” said Mukama, who missed all six of his field goal attempts (all threes). “Obviously communication was bad, but it was also good at times, and that’s when we had our runs.”
Ryerson, who are no strangers to falling behind early, stunned the Raven hopefuls with their own 18-6 run immediately after the Carleton run to take their first, and only, lead of the game.
Falling into foul trouble to end the first quarter, defensive player of the year Marcus Anderson and first-team all-star Eddie Ekiyor found themselves seated on the Carleton bench with two fouls each, giving the Rams room to close in and tie the game at 18 after the first.
With the Rams positioned to take over the steering wheel after a strong end to the first, they didn’t do themselves any favours in the second, settling for poor shot after poor shot after poor shot.
Twenty-one of the Rams first 27 attempts came from long distance, and the shots just weren’t falling: the team shot only 20.6 per cent from three-point territory in the game.
One cannot fully blame Ryerson for settling for threes, as all credit needs to be directed to the Ravens and their ferocious defence in the paint, which forced the Rams to the perimeter, where they tossed up any shot they could get off.
“They’re not number one on defence for no reason,” Mukama said. “They pride themselves on not letting people get into the paint.”
The Ravens’ depth was also on full display, proving why they’re considered, inarguably, the best team in the country as they head into the Final 8 next week in Halifax.
Stanley Mayambo, who came off the bench for Carleton, instilled his presence to perfection. Lighting it up from all over the floor, Mayambo poured in 17 points and five triples on 6-11 shooting from deep in 29 minutes of action. For his efforts, Mayambo earned the honours of Kitch MacPherson Player of the Game.
The Ravens, who will presumably be ranked as the first seed heading into Halifax, held a 41-21 rebounding advantage while also shooting 49.2 per cent from the field and a jaw-droppingly efficient 48.1 per cent from long distance against the Rams.
Even though they came short in this one, the Rams still have a lot to be proud of looking back at their road to securing OUA silver and a berth at the Final 8 for another shot at a national title.
“Man, we went through adversity,” Mukama said. “This team is resilient. Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted but it’s actually a blessing. Not everybody gets to play in the OUA Finals, let alone get there three straight years in a row.”
UP NEXT: Ryerson heads to Halifax next week to play in the U Sports Final 8 tournament. Play begins on March 8, and the Eyeopener will be there to cover all the action.