By Gavin Axelrod
The Ryerson Rams fell in a nail-biter, 79-77 in their first game of a weekend back-to-back against the Lakehead Thunderwolves on Nov. 1 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
After trailing by double-digits throughout most of the game, Ryerson controlled their fate with less than a minute left to play.
Down by two points and one final possession, the Rams needed a basket to tie or three-pointer to win.
Rams guard Jalen Butler dribbled the ball up the court, passing it off to Jayden Frederick, who had 29 points on the night. Frederick emphatically forced his way to the basket, however, a missed layup in the dying seconds sealed the game and gave Ryerson their second straight loss.
“We played hard but we should have started playing harder in the beginning of the game,” said Frederick. “I don’t know if we deserved to win.”
For the first time since 2011, Ryerson had lost to Lakehead after winning nine straight games against the team.
Despite their loss, the team managed to scratch and claw all night long.
“We continue to be up and down,” said Ryerson head coach Borko Popic. “Sometimes the effort’s not where it needs to be and then we’re able to find it and summon it, and we need to keep working on having [it] on a more consistent basis.”
A back-and-forth opening 10 minutes saw Ryerson down 22-19. An early seven points from forward Keevon Small kept the Rams within striking distance.
But early in the second quarter, they found themselves in a 10-point hole with Lakehead having their way with Ryerson, especially in the paint.
With 2:58 left to play in the half, coach Popic called a timeout with his team down 11 points. The timeout proved to be a major momentum shifter.
“We had a slow start,” said Frederick. “We were able to come back and try and fight back into the game.”
The Rams began to charge in the final two minutes of the first half. Led by a combined 15 points from guard Tevaun Kokko and Frederick, they outscored their opponents 9-1 heading into the break.
Lakehead started the second half scorching hot. Thunderwolves guard, Isaiah Traylor scored 14 points in the opening minutes of the quarter.
The contest featured a dual between two of the Ontario University Athletics premier scorers.
Frederick came into the contest ranked second in the league averaging 28.5 points per game while Traylor ranked sixth with 24.5 points per game.
Both players finished the game with a game-high 29 points.
Ryerson was once again without star forward Tanor Ngom, who was out with a hand injury. His absence created a glaring hole for the Rams as they allowed Lakehead to score 40 points in the paint.
UP NEXT: Ryerson will wrap up their double-header with Lakehead Saturday at the MAC. Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m