By Armen Zargarian
In a much-anticipated battle between the National College Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Oregon Ducks and the U Sports Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) men’s basketball teams, the Ducks defeated TMU 108-76 on Friday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
TMU gave up multiple offensive rebounds in the opening minutes that led to layups for Kel’El Ware and a thunderous dunk by Quincy Guerrier from Montreal. Lead assistant coach Jeremie Kayeye called a timeout less than two minutes into the game.
“The magnitude of the game was getting to our guys,” said Kayeye. “I told these guys they are playing a team that’s expected to win, all you have to do is show up right away, if you don’t, they will bury you.”
Carleton transfer Simon Chamberlain settled TMU’s offense with a three-pointer in semi-transition. Chamberlain finished with 15 points on better than 50 per cent shooting.
“A lot of times last year he was itching to come on the floor, but he was always active—in guys’ ears, giving tips and pointers,” said second-year forward Aaron Rhooms about Chamberlain’s on-floor presence. “Just having his experience from Carleton is a big thing, bringing that winners mentality.”
Oregon constantly got the ball to the seven-footer Ware, who seemed uncontainable and finished with a game-high 26 points on 12-17 shooting.
Rhooms took control of the offense with a transition dunk towards the end of the first quarter. He followed it up with a three-pointer, a trip to the free-throw line, then another unassisted long-range bucket.
Rhooms scored 12 of TMU’s 21 points in the quarter. The second-year standout finished the night with a team-high 22 points and eight rebounds.
“Whatever I gotta do for the team, if we seem to be in a scoring drought I’ll try to make a spark, find my spots, try to get the team going,” said Rhooms.
Although TMU’s offense stayed potent, they were unable to counter Oregon’s game plan to score inside at every opportunity. The second quarter began much like the first, with the Ducks dominating inside the key.
“It’s definitely frustrating but I take it as motivation, I take it as a challenge,” said Rhooms. “Games are battles, and battles aren’t won or lost until the final buzzer.”
The 7:25 mark of the second quarter marked the first time in the game that TMU’s defence forced Oregon to take an outside jump-shot, which was a contested Keeshawn Barthelemy three-pointer that landed short of the basket.
Both teams showcased their offensive prowess and traded baskets for the rest of the half. The Ducks finished the first half shooting nearly 67 per cent from the field and took a 56-39 lead into the break. TMU needed to accumulate multiple defensive stops to build a third quarter run.
The half finished on a frustrating note for TMU, as they allowed a back-cut leading to a layup and stalled on offense with too much one-on-one and dribbling.
“It’s a big learning opportunity for us. Me being the point guard I have to learn the balance of when to score, when to facilitate, where I can be more aggressive. I feel like I could have done a better job with that tonight,” said guard Ankit Choudhary.
Besides Rhooms’ team-leading performance, Chamberlain continued to be uber reliable for TMU Friday night, coming through with quick trigger three-pointers and pull-up jumpers.
“I love playing with Simon,” said Choudhary. “He helps with our spacing a lot, works very hard, and he’s a very smart basketball player. I truly believe every time he shoots the ball it is going in.”
A mid-range jump shot by centre Lincoln Rosebush, followed by a defensive stand and a Rhooms bucket cut Oregon’s lead to seven points early in the third quarter. It was the closest TMU had been since the opening stint of the game.
The home side followed that up by forcing a shot-clock violation with four minutes left in the frame, drawing a lengthy applause from the crowd. But the Ducks punched back, getting multiple defensive stops of their own and effectively punishing TMU in transition.
“It’s a process of running out of gas, it’s no excuse but it’s the fact that for a lot of these guys it’s the first time,” said Kayeye.
An ill-advised closeout from Rosebush gave the Ducks three free-throws to end the quarter and gave them a 84-60 lead into the fourth quarter.
TMU showed no quit, starting the final frame with full-court pressure and not settling for any jump shots. However, Ware and his uncanny wingspan overmatched TMU, with a comeback not meant to be.
“Within the next two weeks and our training camp starting on Sept. 12, we’re going to have time to fix these things,” said Kayeye. “This group of guys might not have the habits of a championship team, but they are willing to do it…last year we figured it out near February, this year I think it will be a lot sooner.”
UP NEXT: TMU returns to the court on Oct. 1 for a pre-season tilt against Bishop’s University at the MAC. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.