The Ryerson Rams Escape with a Win over the Queen’s Gaels

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  • Jahmal Jones: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 steal




TORONTO, ON-It’s been a week, and the Ryerson Rams carry her on their jerseys every time they step on the court. Two letters, S and P, on the right side of their jerseys-SP, like the initials of Sandy Pothier, the former Ryerson women’s basketball coach, who passed away on Jan. 21 at age 50.

In the first weekend at home for the Rams since Pothier’s death, the team managed two wins in two games to move into sole possession of third place in the OUA East division.

While the 107-33 win over the RMC Paladins was routine on Friday night, Saturday’s 73-68 win over the visiting Queen’s Gaels was anything but.

Ryerson Rams head coach Roy Rana couldn’t explain the poor start of his team during that second game. “Every year, you have one of those nights when you’re just dead,” he said. “The gym was dead, and it didn’t seem like anybody wanted to play… Fortunately, we came out with a win.”

It was a tale of two halves.

Queen’s led throughout the first quarter until four straight free throws by second-year guard Jahmal Jones and fifth-year forward Luke Staniscia gave a 13-11 lead to Ryerson at the end of the first 10 minutes. The joy was short-lived for the Ryerson faithful as the Gaels gained control of the game in the second quarter. Leading 24-22, they closed the half on a 9-3-second-year forward Nikola Misljencevic scored 10 of his 15 points during that period.

Queen’s entered halftime with a 33-25 lead and just like that, the team was halfway to its first win of the season. Stephan Barrie’s team might be one of the youngest of the CIS, but the group is well coached, physical and resilient-which is to say that if the Gaels haven’t won yet, it’s not by lack of effort.

Rana wasn’t too pleased. “We just didn’t handle them really well,” he said. “We were passive, and that was the difference.”

If the Rams found themselves down at halftime, it was also due to a terrible shooting performance as they made only six of 29 shot attempts (20.7 percent). Jones and second-year guard Jordon Gauthier were the main culprits and combined for two field goals made in 15 attempts.

This wasn’t lost on Rana. “We shot the ball absolutely horribly in the first half,” he said before adding that this had been “one of our worst shooting performances of the year by far.”

Yet the second half followed a different script as the Gaels maintained their good level of play while the Rams upped theirs-making for a good finale. Entering the fourth quarter, the Queen’s Gaels held a 50-49 lead, but Ryerson seized control of the momentum. Two three-point shots by Gavin Berry were instrumental in that effort. The quarter was a back-and-forth affair between two teams who couldn’t pull away from one another.

But with eight seconds left to play, Gaels guard Ryan Golden missed a three-point shot that would have tied the game at 71-71. Two Rams free throws from Jones provided the final margin of 5 points.

“We found ways in the second half to make plays to win (the game),” Rana said. “We were lucky to come up with a win, but we’ll take it.”

Misljencevic led all scorers with 21 points, but Golden (15) and Simpson (10) also scored in double figures. The Gaels play a unique style of play, relying on backdoor cuts, screens and passes rather than the more traditional isolations or penetrations.

Rana praised the Gaels. “They’re well coached and they find a way to take you out of what you want to do (offensively),” he said. “Credit to them. They played well and they made some shots.”

For the Rams, Gauthier managed a team-high 17 points despite his tough first half. Staniscia (15), Jones (14) and rookie Aaron Best (10) all chipped in with at least 10 points.

Next week is rivalry week in the OUA East. The Gaels get two games against the RMC Paladins, meaning that one of the two teams will finally get its first win of the season.

For the Rams, rivalry week brings a home date with the Toronto Varsity Blues.

Rana knows at least one thing. “We’re going to have to be a hell of a lot better than we were,” he said. “I know what we’re capable of.”

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