The Ryerson men’s basketball team won its first OUA Wilson Cup, with a 73-68 victory over the Carleton Ravens.
Aaron Best led the way with 21 points, as the Rams made a comeback from a 13-point deficit they faced at halftime. Ryerson won the second half 46-28, by only allowing Carleton to convert on 24.3 per cent of their field goal attempts. Kadeem Green was a force defensively for the Rams, leading both teams with eight rebounds and six blocks.
Saturday’s home win at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, punches the Rams a ticket to compete in their second straight Arcelormittal Dofasco Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Men’s Final 8 tournament.
“In the next week or so, we can become arguably one of the best teams ever at Ryerson,” said Patrick Tatham, Ryerson’s interim head coach and OUA coach of the year winner. “We’ve already made history this weekend, but we really want to be uncommon and that’s been our goal for the year.”
Ryerson’s all-star trio of Best, Adika Peter-McNeilly and Ammanuel Diressa combined for 43 of their team’s points. Their most important points came from drawing fouls in the second half, helping Ryerson pick up easy points by finishing 25-32 at the free-throw line.
By putting the Ravens into foul trouble early in the third quarter, the Rams were able to create the momentum they lacked in the first half. They made eight free throws in the first six minutes of the third quarter, helping them start off the second half on an 18-8 run.
“I just keep telling the guys that it’s one possession at a time,” said Best. “We got down early and we just needed to make sure we didn’t get down on ourselves. We kept our heads high, and chipped away bit by bit.”
Ryerson and Carleton went into the final frame tied at 55. The Ravens couldn’t adjust to the Rams’ second half resurgence, leading to them fouling Ryerson eight times, as well as giving up two costly turnovers. The biggest one came with Jean-Victor Mukama stealing the ball from the Ravens with 10.1 seconds left, to secure their five-point lead.
The Ravens weren’t able to answer in the second half, like they did with their 15-0 first quarter run. Carleton’s early lead came from them dominating the offensive glass 9-1 in the first half, while also forcing the Rams into 10 turnovers.
Connor Wood led the Ravens to a 40-27 lead at halftime, by scoring 17 points of his eventual 20, on 5-9 shooting from three-point distance. Ryan Ejim also handled his business down low for the Ravens, picking up five offensive rebounds to go with his 10 points.
The offensive boards the Ravens were able to grab, helped them score 18 second-chance points. Without them, the Ravens wouldn’t have been able to stay in the game with their 28.9 per cent shooting from the field.
“The only thing I was concerned about, was us owning the glass in the second half. I told the guys that if we can own it, the game’s over,” Tatham said.
The Rams did allow the Ravens to pick up five offensive rebounds in the final 10 minutes of the game, but the rim protection they had with Green’s three fourth quarter blocks helped them seal the deal.
“It feels amazing to know I left an impact at Ryerson in my three years, it’s truly a blessing,” Green said.
Green’s presence down low and Ryerson’s defensive improvement around the perimeter in the second half helped them contain Carleton’s only OUA First-Team All-Star, Kaza Kajami-Keane, who scored six points on 20 per cent shooting from the field.
The Carleton Ravens, last year’s winners of the CIS Final 8 tournament, will join the Ryerson Rams at this year’s national tournament in Vancouver, B.C. from March 17-20. The Rams will be looking to continue making history with a gold medal, after last year’s third place finish.