By Libaan Osman
The NCAA’s Duke Blue Devils beat the Ryerson Rams 86-67, Wednesday night at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ont., to start their 2018 Canada Tour.
After a sloppy first quarter that ended with a two point lead for Ryerson, Duke began the second on a 10-3 run. Star freshmen Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett were key in the Blue Devils’ strong first half, combining for 37 of the team’s 40 points at the break.
Ryerson didn’t do themselves any favours during that run, shooting 0-13 from the three-point line to end the first half, as they found themselves down 28-40 at halftime.
“I think we were shying away from the rim,” said fifth-year forward Jean-Victor Mukama. “Coach (Roy) Rana pointed it out in the timeout, he said guys ‘stop forcing unless they’re wide open shots’.”
Mukama led the way for Ryerson, scoring 20 points and 12 rebounds to go along with two blocks in 38 minutes of action. He didn’t receive much help, as starters Myles Charvis and Filip Vujadinovic shot a combined 0-12 in the first two quarters of the game.
The sold out crowd at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre got their moneys worth, being able to witness star studded highlights all night long.
Of course, Williamson was among those that had fans in awe, with a wicked put-back slam for two of his 29 points.
Rams sophomore Tanor Ngom joined in on the dunk fest and postered one of Duke’s players, who was hospitalized after the dunk, according to head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
What hurt the Rams most was the size of the Blue Devils, as the Division 1 powerhouse finished with 17 more rebounds in the contest.
Duke were also without freshmen Cam Reddish and Tre Jones, who are sitting out with minor injuries on the team’s Canadian basketball tour.
It wasn’t all bad for the Rams at the end of this one, as some of their bench players took advantage of their playing time. Seneca College transfer Yusuf Ali made his presence felt during the game, dropping 11 points, five assists and four rebounds.
“He’s one of my old time eastern guys,” said Rana. “He’s tough, he’s not afraid to take a big shot, he’s a little bit of an underdog, he’s a huge addition for us.”
Despite losing seniors Manny Diressa, Roshane Roberts and Adam Voll, Mukama believes they can get right back to the Final 8 tournament in Halifax next March.
“I think we’re the best team in Canada,” said Mukama post-game. “I think we’re gonna surprise a lot of people.”
The Rams played hard, but were ultimately taken down by one of the most talented collegiate basketball teams in the world. They’ll now have a month off of basketball before they take off to Victoria, B.C. for the Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament on Sept. 27.