By Kabeer Sethi and Ryan Skilton
The Ryerson Rams treated their home fans to some hard-fought basketball Saturday night. Winning streaks were on the line for all the teams as Ryerson faced off against the Windsor Lancers in a men’s and women’s double-header. The men dominated the No. 4 ranked Lancers with a 98-78 victory, while the women’s game went down to the last shot in a 77-74 loss to the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.
Trailing by three, the Rams women’s team had the ball with 20 seconds left. Ryerson ran a set play for star guard Keneca Pingue-Giles. However, relentless pressure by the Lancers forced her to pass the ball to Maria Nunes. With time winding down, Nunes put up a buzzer-beater that just missed as the Rams fell to 3-1 on the season.
Ryerson found itself in an early hole against the Lancers. Up 17-3 in the first quarter, it seemed like Windsor was in a class of its own. However, the Rams fought back and closed the quarter with a 15-4 run.
The Lancers extended their lead to nine points early in the second quarter, but Ryerson’s Sofia Paska took over the game. Her aggressive play in the paint led to three quick trips to the free-throw line. She finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
After trailing by as much as 14 points, the Rams found themselves trailing 38-35 at halftime. It seemed like the momentum had shifted to the home side and the fans sensed a comeback.
The Rams came out focused in the second half, beating the Lancers to loose balls and hustling on defence. Led by Pingue-Giles, Ryerson went on a 10-0 run to start the third quarter. Pingue-Giles channelled her inner Ray Allen, hitting consecutive threes to give her team a seven-point cushion.
The Lancers responded with a full-court press defence, stifling the Rams’ offence and creating turnovers. Pingue-Giles, who finished with a game-high 21 points, credited Windsor’s defensive shift as the turning point in the game.
“At times, we weren’t able to handle it (full-court press), control it or beat it,” said Pingue-Giles, who was named Rams’ female player of the week.
Guard Korissa Williams propelled the Lancers’ offence, tallying 20 points and seven rebounds while disrupting Ryerson’s offensive rhythm with seven steals. Forward Cheyanne Roger finished with a double-double.
Windsor also had an X-factor off the bench. Guard Caitlyn Longmuir used the long ball to her advantage, going 4-for-4 from beyond the arc late in the second half to give the Lancers the three-point win.
Despite the loss, Rams head coach Carly Clarke said the game was a good indicator of the program’s development this year.
“We have evidence we can play with the best team in the country,” said Clarke. “We didn’t come out on the winning side, but our goal is to beat that team on March 15.”
They may have a chance to do just that as the Rams women’s basketball team moved into the top 10 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) rankings for the first time in school history. The top eight teams get a chance to play for the national championship in March.
Things were better and far easier on the men’s side. Aaron Best had 30 points on the night as the Lancers had no answer for the fourth-year guard. Jahmal Jones went 0 for 12 from the field but tied the all-time Rams single-game assist record with 15. All seven of his points came from the free-throw line.
The Lancers took an early five-point lead halfway through the first quarter, but Ryerson settled in offensively after a timeout from head coach Roy Rana.
Windsor could not withstand the Rams’ scoring surge, as they went on a 21-0 run to finish the quarter up 30-12.
Rams diehard fan Ikechukwu Okafor said this was the turning point in the game.
“When the Rams went on a 21-0 run, Windsor started rushing their offence,” said Okafor. “We (Rams) took it from there and never let up.”
The game was effectively over at this point.
Jones struggled with his shooting, but ran the offence to perfection, finishing with a memorable alley-oop to Best in the fourth.
Though the offence was impressive, the defence stood tall as well. Kadeem Green manned the paint, grabbing 13 boards to go with 15 points. Best also contributed, finishing with 10 rebounds and intangible defence.
After dominating three quarters, Ryerson took a Sunday stroll on a Saturday night, allowing Windsor to score 30 points in the fourth quarter. The Rams’ lead was too much to overcome, however, as the team improved to 4-0 on the season.
It was a strong game by the team, but coach Rana said it was just another victory.
“We played hard and kept the offence flowing, but there’s no such thing as statement wins in this league,” said Rana.
Both Ryerson teams play Laurentian at home on Friday.