By Bryan Meler
The third-seeded Ryerson Rams put together a full team effort against the sixth-seeded Concordia Stingers, beating them 87-47 in their quarterfinal matchup at the U SPORTS Final 8 tournament.
With the win on March 8 in Halifax, the Rams have set themselves up for a rematch of last year’s U SPORTS Final against the Calgary Dinos. Last year, the Rams lost to the Dinos by a mere two points, but will be looking to avoid a similar result when they take on Calgary in the semis on March 9.
“We need to lock in mentally because we want them,” says Rams guard Myles Charvis of the second-seeded Dinos. “They ended our season last year… It was a tough loss. I still haven’t gotten over it.”
The Rams enter their matchup knowing they have one of the deepest rosters in the tournament. Against the Stingers, Rams head coach Roy Rana utilized his entire roster, with all 13 of his dressed players seeing action on the court.
“It speaks to the depth of talent that we have and the commitment from our players,” said Rana post-game. “Some first-year guys, others who don’t play a lot, they all made contributions and showed that they’re ready to play. It was a good sign.”
The full team effort should help the Rams stay fresh as they move through the tournament, as teams this year won’t be able to benefit from an off-day before semis, like in years past.
Together, the Rams took care of business right from the start, forcing the Stingers to call a timeout only four minutes in as Ryerson took an early 12-0 lead. In the first quarter, nine Rams got playing time, as their defence locked down the Stingers, finishing the opening frame with a 26-6 lead.
Ryerson also finished the first half with a 20-point lead (41-21), but they didn’t grow complacent. They finished the third quarter up by 30 (63-33), and ultimately punched their ticket to the semifinal with a 40-point blowout.
Because of the Rams’ length and hustle, the Stingers converted on only 27.4 per cent of their shots from the field, and connected on three of their 36 attempts from 3-point range. Charvis and Rana said that a point of emphasis for the Rams was to take away the Stingers’ ability to connect from deep.
Ryerson was especially effective when it came to stopping Concordia’s star duo of Adrian Armstrong and RSEQ (Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec) conference MVP Ricardo Monge. The two Stingers combined for only 30 points on 13-33 shooting (33.9 per cent) from the field.
Another point of emphasis for the Rams was to up the speed of the game. “We wanted to run, because they only play seven to eight guys deep,” said Myles Charvis, who was named Player of the Game following the Rams’ win. “They’re not really 13 deep like us, so we wanted to get them tired.”
Charvis was able to get the Rams going to start their quarterfinal matchup, finishing the opening frame with 10 points on 4-5 shooting, to go along with 3 assists and a steal. But as the Rams’ lead grew bigger and bigger, the bench was able to take over.
Second-year centre Warsame Mohamed ultimately finished with a team-high 15 points on 7-10 shooting from off the bench. He also crashed the glass, registering another team-high nine rebounds.
“We have a bunch of guys who can start on other teams, that’s how deep we are,” said Jean-Victor Mukama, who was named a second-team All-Canadian on March 7. “Every year, coach does a good job of recruiting players who will buy into the culture.”
The Rams will look for revenge in the semis, when they take on the Dinos on March 9 at 2 p.m. AST at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.
The Dinos haven’t slowed down one bit since last year’s title run, pulling off their first undefeated season in program history during their 2018-19 campaign. Many of their core pieces from last year’s team are also in Halifax this year, including Canada West’s MVP Mambi Diawara and David Kapinga, who dropped 25 points in 2018’s U SPORTS final.
Just like the Stingers, the Dinos aren’t as deep as the Rams. During their quarterfinal matchup against the Saint Mary’s Huskies, the Dinos only played eight of their players.
Rana says that he and his coaching staff will have to watch film before deciding their game plan. But the Rams should be looking to tire out the Dinos by pushing the same pace they had against the Stingers. After what happened last year, it’d be hard to believe the Rams wouldn’t have the motivation to put in that extra bit of effort.
“We lost last year’s national championship by two points,” said Charvis, one of three Rams co-captains. “A game like that, it’s tough to get over, but we can make up for it by winning the game tomorrow.”