By Gavin Axelrod
The Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team made light work of the Guelph Gryphons, defeating them 109-63 on Feb. 19 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, advancing to the Wilson Cup quarter-finals.
Rams point guard Tevaun Kokko set the tempo early by scoring 15 points in the first quarter alone. Kokko finished with 21 points, four rebounds and six assists on 9-15 from the field.
“[It was] just business as usual,” said Kokko. “Just come out with a little bit of fire and get the team going. If I can do that, then it will be a good spark for us.”
Early on, Rams forward Tanor Ngom picked up two fouls that would see him sit out for the majority of the first half. Despite this, the team didn’t have much to worry about as Liam O’Leary-Orange stepped up big time off the bench.
The third-year forward scored nine points and hauled down four rebounds in Ngom’s lengthy absence.
“He came in and we kept rolling,” said Rams head coach Borko Popic. “He was attacking the offence glass, finishing around the rim and protecting the rim on the defensive end. And it’s what Liam does.”
A major difference-maker in the first half was Ryerson’s defence, scoring 22 points off of their opponents 12 first half turnovers. The Rams ended the game with 40 points off 25 Gryphons turnovers.
“Defence wins games, defence wins championships,” said Rams forward Keevon Small. “Once we get a steal or turnover, that’s just easy threes or easy twos to the basket.”
First-year guard Mouhamed Ndiaye had his fingerprints all over Ryerson’s playoff opener. Ndiaye scored 11 points, four rebounds and even drew an offensive foul.
“Mo has been playing great basketball recently,” said Kokko. “You see the strides in what he’s doing it’s very obvious to everyone that’s watching, it’s great to be a part of his growth.
Ndiaye was the sixth player to score in double-digits as Kokko, Ndiaye and Jayden Frederick combined for 44 points. Speaking of Frederick, the fourth-year guard scored 12 points, adding five rebounds and four assists.
In addition, Rams guard Stefan Kojovic scored 17 second half points in just 13 minutes en route to the team’s 46-point victory.
Ryerson will now travel to the nation’s capital, where they’ll face the No. 5 ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees. The last time these two teams met, Ryerson came away with a 91-67 victory on Jan. 24.
At halftime, the Rams held on to a commanding 59-30 lead, shooting a scorching hot 57.5 per cent from the field and 6-6 at the free throw line. Ryerson closed out the game shooting 57.4 per cent from the field and 75 per cent at the free throw line.
Ngom was looking to make an impact, despite playing just six first half minutes. The third-year forward scored 12 points in the game and drew two offensive fouls.
“The first two fouls he got in the first quarter he sat out, then he picked up his third,” said Small. “Coming into the second half [Tanor was] just staying focussed and [didn’t] let it get into [his] head, fouls happen.”
First-year guard Tom Dumont cashed in on pretty behind the back layup, giving the Rams a 78-41 third quarter lead.
In what has become a regular occurrence, Rams head coach Borko Popic would empty the bench heading into the final quarter.
Unlike the last matchup between Guelph back on Feb. 5, Ryerson dominated from wire-to-wire, not letting up and giving the Gryphons any chance whatsoever of getting back into the game.
“I think the first time we played them at Guelph, we took them lightly,” said Small. “Today coming in, first round of playoffs, this is pretty much Ryerson basketball, we were just locked in.”
UP NEXT: Ryerson will head out on the road for the remainder of the playoffs. Coming up first is a quarter-finals matchup against Ottawa Feb. 22. Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m.