Kale Harrison, Laurier Pull Away in a Win Over Ryerson, Despite Big Game from Jahmal Jones

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TORONTO, ON – In the end, experience prevailed at Ryerson University’s Kerr Hall Gym.

The visiting Laurier Golden Hawks are among the most experienced teams of the OUA conference while the hometown Rams remain a young bunch. That’s how Laurier’s 85-65 victory over Ryerson in front of an intense crowd can best be explained.

Laurier’s Matthew Buckley loved the result. “I feel awesome,” he said. “It’s always great to get the first win under your belt.”

This was the first game back in Canada for the Rams after a three-game trip in the United States, but it definitely wasn’t the result the players were hoping for. When Laurier jumped ahead 12-2 after barely two minutes of play, Ryerson head coach Roy Rana refused to blame the U.S. trip for fatigue or uninspired play. “They slowed (the game) down and it was effective for them,” Rana said. “We had a slow start, because they slowed it down.”

Part of the reason for Laurier’s early advantage also was that the players hit most of their shots. Until they didn’t, which allowed the Rams to chip away at the lead behind a strong effort from second-year Jahmal Jones.

Jones was back with the Rams after a short stint at the 2011 Pan American Games-where he represented Canada and was a teammate of Laurier’s Harrison. The Golden Hawks head coach Peter Campbell praised Jones, putting him alongside Carleton’s Philip Scrubb as “the two best point guards in the province.”

Because of that, he also praised freshman William Coulthard, who had the difficult task of trying to stop Jones in his first ever CIS regular season game. “He’s playing one of the toughest matchups he’s going to have all year,” he said. “I don’t think he handled (Jones), but he survived it.”

In the second quarter, Laurier added to its lead but Ryerson fought back and, down 27-17, closed the first half on a 16-8 run. The Golden Hawks led 35-33 and were in the middle of a tight contest. By then, Jones had 14 points and Laurier “had conceded the fact that we could not handle him,” said Campbell.

This first game of the season was a clash of opposing styles-the grit and experience of Laurier against the youth and hops of Ryerson. It made for a great game. Campbell was adamant. “We’re not a real athletic team, so this is not a good matchup for us,” he said. “(Because) they’re a really athletic team.”

Yet, Buckley wouldn’t have it any other way. “We have a lot of weapons,” he said. “(We have) a lot of guys who can score, we run the floor and we’re deep.”

The Rams played with more energy and urgency to start the third quarter and finally took their first lead of the game on a Jordon Gauthier three-point shot. The two teams went back and forth, Kale Harrison for Laurier matching Jones’s seven points in the quarter with seven of his own. Ryerson trailed 53-50 at the end of the third quarter after fourth-year Sharif Wanas hit a running floater at the buzzer for the Golden Hawks.

In the fourth, Ryerson’s Jones quickly tied the score at 55 with a three-point shot, but Laurier answered as it did all game. But after two quick Harrison midrange jump shots came the turning point. Harrison had battled foul trouble all game (i.e. he only played 22 minutes total) and had four fouls when he was whistled for a fifth one against Rams rookie Aaron Best.

Just like that, Laurier’s best scorer had fouled out with 5:37 left to play in a 64-58 game. Ryerson’s Gauthier promptly nailed a three-point shot, and perhaps momentum was with the Rams. Campbell declined to blame the referees for that decision and only said that, “They did the best that they could.”

“I was pleased with our composure, because things weren’t going our way,” Campbell says.

Harrison’s departure seemed to energize Laurier rather than Ryerson, especially the trio of third-year Kyle Enright (6), third-year Maxwell Allin (10) and second-year Patrick Donnelly (7) that scored 23 of Laurier’s 32 points in the fourth quarter. Following Harrison’s departure and Gauthier’s shot, Laurier outscored Ryerson 21-4 and that was all she wrote, really.

Allin, especially, was big after Harrison left the game. “He’s a pretty good player, isn’t he?” Campbell said. “He did a great job in the fourth quarter of taking over the game.”

Offensively, Harrison led Laurier with 20 points, but Allin (17), Enright (14) and Donnelly (11) all scored in double figures as well. Buckley praised his team’s leadership. “We have to figure out how to deal with adversity,” he says, “and tonight we did a good job.”

Campbell was impressed with his team, mostly with “how well we played without Harrison and Allin for so much of the game, because they’re our two key guys.”

Rather than sulk on what could have been, Rana remembered the positive of this first game of a long season. “For three quarters, I thought we were really good,” he said. But then came the fourth, specifically after the turning point. “We had mental breakdowns,” Rana said. “Offensively we didn’t make good choices.”

Jones led all players with 26 points, but only one other Rams player record over 10 points: fifth-year Luke Staniscia, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Best impressed in his first career CIS start with nine points while Gauthier battled foul trouble on his way to an eight-point effort.

Laurier will look to go back home with a second win, playing against the Toronto Varsity Blues on Saturday evening. Ryerson hopes to avoid falling into a 0-2 hole when they host the Waterloo Warriors on Saturday as well. Both contests are scheduled for 8 p.m.

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