By Will Baldwin
It was clear from the opening tip-off that despite being ranked one spot behind the Laurentian Voyageurs in the U Sports national rankings, the Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team was more prepared to execute.
With Tevaun Kokko leading the way once again, the Rams were excellent in all facets of the game on the way to a big 106-68 victory at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Feb. 15.
Kokko continued his hot play scoring 28 points and adding three assists, going head-to-head with one of the best players in the conference, two-time national player of the year Kadre Gray.
For Kokko though, despite the outside interest in the two facing off, it was just another day at the office.
“Every player I like to treat the same,” said Kokko. “Just go out and control what I can control, go as hard as I can and just try and execute the game plan.”
Control and execution are perfect words to describe Ryerson’s performance as Gray, Sam Ivey and Joseph Hlady—the Voyageurs three leading scorers—were held to just nine of 36 shooting from the field.
If that wasn’t enough, the Rams forced 23 total turnovers, one more than the 22 field goals Laurentian had as a team.
After starting 4-5 on the year, Ryerson has won 12 of its last 13 games to now close the season. If you ask Kokko, defence may be the thing that changed the Rams season.
“We’ve been really locked in,” said Kokko. “That’s a testament to the coaches and us just really practicing hard, being together and being on the same page.”
Another noticeable change to the Rams this season from first half to second half, was the contributions of first-years Tom Dumont and Mouhamed Ndiaye.
Saturday was another great example of their continued development as Dumont and Ndiaye both dropped 13 points each.
To Kokko, their growth has been a much-needed addition to this team.
“The future is in good hands,” said Kokko. “It’s also good for us because it helps our depth, those guys are playing at a really high-level right now.”
Dumont himself can feel the change for him and his fellow first year in the second half of the season.
“I just think we’re getting more confident,” said Dumont. “It feels natural for us to be playing with the starting five, I feel like in the second semester guys are finding us more.”
Rams head coach Borko Popic wholeheartedly agrees with the sentiments of his two players.
“Really talented young players who continue to work and have bought into our system,” said Popic. “Every game you see different aspects of their games that continue to flourish.”
The rookies didn’t stop there. Dumont set a career-high in assists with seven while Ndiaye was a force at both ends with five rebounds, a steal and multiple flashy dribble moves.
Dumont, Ndiaye and Kokko were far from the only noteworthy Rams performers in a game that saw the team virtually lead from start to finish.
Forward Keevon Small finished with seven steals, good for the second most in a game in program history.
Not to be out done, Tanor Ngom continued his strong play down low, tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and one buzzer beating alley-oop dunk from guard Jayden Frederick.
It was the final game of the season to remember for a Rams team whose focus now shifts to the postseason. The team will host a first round playoff game Wednesday against the Guelph Gryphons at the MAC.
Ryerson finishes the year second in their division and fifth overall in the conference with a 16-6 record.
UP NEXT: The Rams will host the Guelph Gryphons in their first round playoff matchup on Feb. 19