By Will Baldwin
Just one stop was needed to extend the game to overtime against the Mercyhurst Lakers but Ryerson couldn’t make it happen during the 71-69 preseason loss at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Oct. 11.
Unfortunately for the Rams, Lakers leading scorer Daniel Ogele would find the ball in his hands after a bizarre scramble with just two seconds left as he muscled the ball into the net for a game-winning layup with just 0.5 seconds on the clock.
Ogele dropped a team-high 21 points for the Lakers in the two-point win.
The last play was a perfect metaphor for the Rams preseason performance, but to fourth-year guard Jayden Frederick, this early season loss can be good for the team’s psyche.
“We lost early last season and it changed our whole attitude,” said Frederick. “We have to play hard; we can’t just think the game’s over at half time.”
After a solid first half that saw the Rams get out and run in transition, the game completely swung away from them.
Coaching in his first home game as Ryerson’s head coach, Borko Popic said the momentum shift early in the third quarter.
“We built a lead [then] just kind of relaxed,” said Popic. “They started to make shots and we hit a lull offensively. They were able to get back in the game and make it a ball game down the stretch.”
Frederick, who dropped a game-high 30 points, echoed his head coach.
“We got comfortable as a team once we were up. Last year when we were up, we would keep that lead and I guess the game’s not done after halftime, so we have to get better at that,” said Frederick.
The Lakers are coming off a historic run to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight last spring and made the trip all the way from Erie, Pennsylvania.
Lakers guard and Pickering Ont., native, Miykah McIntosh finished the game with seven points and a team-high two steals in his homecoming.
Steve Cannady would also chip in 14 points for a Mercyhurst team that is set to begin their season in November.
Meanwhile, the Rams have one more preseason game before they tip-off their regular season at home against the York Lions on Oct. 24.
Popic said games like this provide preparation for the upcoming year.
“There’s no experience like a close game,” said Popic. “It’s why we scheduled this game, it’s a good team, disciplined opponent and they challenged us. We’re gonna learn and grow from this.”
Wilfred Laurier transfer Tevaun Kokko took full advantage of those reps for the Rams in his home debut, scoring two key baskets in the final minute including the game-tying bucket with just seven seconds to go.
Rams star forward Tanor Ngom left the game in the fourth and didn’t return after hurting his hand. Popic said the Rams have no update on Ngom at this time.
UP NEXT: The Rams take on the Dalhousie Tigers tomorrow at the MAC in a rematch of the U SPORTS national bronze medal game from March. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.