Defence Was Optional

Top performers:

Michael Cruickshank (Brock): 29 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block

Jordan Gauthier (Ryerson): 29 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block

TORONTO,ON – At last, head coach Roy Rana could exhale a little bit.

His Ryerson Rams had won their second game of the young season, 108-105 in overtime, against the resilient Brock Badgers.

After four straight losses, this win was much needed for a young Ryerson team. “Thank God we got a win,” said Rana as he was obviously happy with the final score.

The outcome was still in the air until the final buzzer sounded, just after fifth-year guard Michael Cruickshank, of Brock, missed a three-point shot that would have sent the game into a double-overtime period.

“It was one of those games that could have gone into four overtimes,” said Rana.

Early on, this didn’t seem likely as the Badgers dominated the Rams, jumped to a 16-3 lead in the first quarter and prompted the Rams to switch defensive tactics.

“We felt urgency, we felt like we had to do something… We (needed to) play harder,” said Jelane Pryce, the rookie forward who scored 15 points off the bench.

The Rams moved to a zone defence and pressured the ball carrier full court, hoping to force turnovers and transition-basket opportunities where guards Jahmal Jones and Ola Adegboruwa are so dangerous.

This is exactly what happened, as Ryerson capitalized on the Badgers’ mistakes in the second quarter and led 46-32 at halftime.

Rookie Jordan Gauthier, the “Hero Burger Hero of the Game,” gave the Rams a big lift off the bench, scoring 17 points in the first half on his way to a game-high 29 points to go along with 13 rebounds. “He’s very gifted offensively,” said Rana of one of his key recruits in the off-season.

The inconsistent play of the Badgers irked head coach Brad Rootes who said that, “If you play only fifteen minutes, you can’t win.” Cruickshank, one of the team leaders, echoed his coach’s frustration when he talked of Brock’s “mental lapse that affected (us) most of the game.”

The Badgers didn’t help their cause as most of their offence came from the perimeter, especially the three-point line where they made 18 of an astounding 44 attempts. This is great only if you hit your shots.

According to Cruickshank, it is not coincidence that Brock attempts so many perimeter shots as the team is “still trying to establish a sort of post play.” Until then, the Badgers must continue to live and die with the three-point shot.

In the third quarter, Brock continued to die with its perimeter shots. By the time the Badgers found their touch again, the Rams led by 18 points and it might have been too late. To start the fourth quarter, Brock was still down 74-64 but slowly chipped away at the lead until it became a one-possession game in the final minute.

After Adegboruwa missed one of two freethrows with 5.4 seconds left, Brock fourth-year guard Andrew Kraus pushed the ball quickly up the floor and found third-year guard Jermel Pierre on the wing. The native of Whitby, Ont., had not scored in the game but heaved a three-point shot as the final buzzer of regulation sounded. Swoosh.

“That was just a crazy shot,” said Rana who said he hoped that his team would be the one “making another big shot” in the overtime period.

The overtime period told a familiar tale as the Badgers jumped to an early lead before surrendering the lead to an opportunistic Rams team.

“We played hard but just played sloppy,” said Rootes of his team’s play during the overtime.

At the midway point, Pryce took over. The forward first forced a steal at midcourt and found teammate Jones for two of his 22 points. Shortly after, with his team leading 102-101, he hit a three-point shot to seemingly assure the Rams of the victory. Still, it came down to the wire with the missed Cruickshank three-point.

After the game, Rana talked to reporters about staying focused and leveled emotionally. “It’s huge, but you know every win in league play is huge right now,” said Rana.

While Cruickshank and Gauthier were their team’s respective heroes, other players also stepped up. Kraus (14), forward Anto Raic (12) and rookie guards Michael Williams (14) and Cedric Kasongo (10) all scored in double figures for the Badgers. Ryerson’s offensive load was also balanced as Jones, Ryan McNeilly (18), Pryce, Luke Staniscia (12) and Adegboruwa (12) scored at least 10 points.

With two losses this weekend, Brock falls to 3-3 on the season and will look to bounce back next weekend with home games against the York Lions and the Laurentian Voyageurs.

The Rams, meanwhile, hope to carry their momentum when they visit the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the Waterloo Warriors.

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