Jelane Pryce and Ryerson Pick Up First Home Win Over Western

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG & NPH @Northpolehoops






TORONTO, ON-The Ryerson Rams won for the first time in four games at Kerr Hall Gym, defeating the visiting Western Mustangs by the score of 87-76.

After the game, Ryerson head coach Roy Rana told NPH that this game was important. “Who are we? This was the kind of game that’s going to define who we are,” he said. “Can we show toughness and effort, and possibly lose? But if we’re going to lose, let’s lose the right way.”

For the Rams, this victory was a welcome sight in that they finally managed to play a full game with the intensity and effort that they wanted. Indeed, Ryerson held or was tied for the lead for 39 of the 40 minutes of play. Most of all, this is what the coaching staff and the players took away from the game. Rana said his players “gave everything they had” and second-year player Jelane Pryce confirmed that the team played with more heart this time.

The Rams took a 4-3 lead after a made jump shot from fourth-year guard Ola Adegboruwa at 8: 13 of the first quarter and didn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the game. In fact, over the last five minutes of the first quarter Ryerson outscored Western by 15-4 to take control of the game.

This isn’t news to Western head coach Brad Campbell. “Sometimes we struggle to score,” he said. “But I think that most of our issues are at the defensive end.”

There were some hiccups in the second quarter as Western never got closer than six points of Ryerson, and the Rams were leading 46-38 at halftime. By then, much of that lead had been built with point guard Jahmal Jones on the bench because the second-year player was in foul trouble: he even picked up a third foul near the end of the half, a mistake his head coach took responsibility for. “I took a little bit of a gamble by putting him back in,” Rana said. “But everybody rallied around him.”

The Ryerson faithful were happy to see their team not as dependant on one player as usual. “We all decided to take a little bit more ownership for our defense,” fifth-year Luke Staniscia said. “We played a lot harder than in the past couple of games.”

Pryce told NPH that it might simply be a matter of team chemistry. “Jones didn’t play with us through the preseason so it was hard for him to mesh with the new players,” he said. “He played good, but everybody else was struggling because we weren’t used to playing with him at that point.”

With Jones on the bench, it was Pryce who picked up the slack, scoring 16 points in the first half at a time when his team needed it. “(Pryce) has the potential to do this every night if he wants to,” Staniscia said. “When he clicks offensively, there are few people who can stop him.”

Other unexpected contributors for Ryerson included rookies Logan Marrast and Shaja Navaratnarajah, who both played quality minutes in that first half. “They came out and played hard,” Rana said. “That’s all we ask, that you give maximum effort.”

To start the third quarter, Jones was back on the floor, hoping his team could build on its first-half effort. This didn’t happen, with Western rather chipping away at the lead. Ryan Barbeau, Western’s poing guard and team leader, scored six points in the third but just when the Mustangs were threatening, Ryerson responded. There was a big three-point shot from Adegboruwa before second-year Jordon Gauthier restored a double-digit lead in emphatic fashion. Gauthier took the ball at his end, shook one defender, then another, and then attacked the basket for a finger-roll lay-up.

This season, the Mustangs are among the youngest teams not only in the OUA, but the entire CIS. Eight players are rookies while another three are second-year players, ensuring Campbell of a few growing pains early on. “We are frustrated right now,” he said. “We’ve lost a few games in a row and things aren’t going our way.”

The fourth quarter started with the Rams ahead 64-52. With strong play from Barbeau, Western gave itself a chance but ultimately the comeback fell short. The Mustangs couldn’t come closer than within five points of Ryerson in that final quarter, at 68-63 with six minutes left. Second-year forward Peter Scholtes was the focal point of the Western offense in the fourth quarter, hitting free throws, jump shots and three-point shots for a total of 15 points. Yet, it didn’t matter because the Rams hit six of their seven free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

The game was intense with each team desperate on getting the win. This led to some pushing and shoving between players as well as two technical fouls. Adegboruwa also channeled his inner Sam Cassell on more than occasion and talked trash at Mustangs players, notably Barbeau. “It’s who he is,” Rana said. “He’s got an edge and that’s what makes him effective.”

Western has little inside presence and built its offensive plan on good shooting, especially from the perimeter. Against the Rams, the plan didn’t work out mostly because the team didn’t shoot well enough (i.e. 42.9 per cent overall). “We’re very perimeter-oriented right now,” Campbell said.

Barbeau and Scholtes each recorded a game-high 21 points while rookie Ryan Higgins scored a very efficient 17 points on only 7 shots for Western. The Mustangs’ lack of depth, however, was exposed as the rest of the team could only muster 17 points total. “Every team we play tries to stop Ryan (Barbeau). He’s our best player,” Campbell said. “He generates a lot of offense for us.”

This wasn’t the case for Ryerson. Offensively, Pryce led the way with 20 points, but it was truly a team effort: Gauthier, Adegboruwa and Jones scored, respectively, 18, 18 and 16 points.

This game was one between two struggling teams with an identical record of 1-4. After beating the York Lions in the first game of the season, Western has now lost five in a row. Meanwhile, Ryerson has now followed two series of two defeats with a victory.

Rana thinks this can win can be a building block to something greater. “I think they’re feeling good,” he said. “I thought we came off the floor at Lakehead and (against Windsor) not feeling very good about ourselves not because we lost, but because we didn’t give the effort. We weren’t tough enough.”

Only two games remain before the season stops for the holidays. Ryerson plays at Brock and at McMaster in a week while Western hosts the visiting Queen’s Gaels and RMC Paladins.

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