Jahmal Jones’ Career Night Lifts #6-Ranked Rams Over #7 Lancers
TORONTO—On and on they went, one team maybe scoring at one end, then forcing a turnover, or the other team getting a lay-up plus the foul and then missing a three-pointer, but really one player stood above all on the floor of Coca-Cola Court.
By the time the final whistle had been blown, Rams point guard Jahmal Jones had delivered the best performance of his CIS career and Ryerson had won 84-79. The matchup at the Mattamy Athletic Centre had all the hype in the world, pitting the No. 7-ranked Windsor Lancers against the No. 6-ranked Ryerson Rams, and the home team prevailed in an instant classic.
This was the third home win in as many tries for the Rams, but it was nothing like the first two. “It’s what you expect when you have two top 10 teams coming to play,” Rams head coach Roy Rana explained.
“You know it’s going to come down to one or two possessions, and thank God Jahmal Jones was spectacular tonight and showed he’s one of the top point guards in the country.”
But before he did, it’s Windsor that asserted its will, using its size advantage to take a 17-12 lead after 10 minutes of play. The message for the Windsor players was clear. “Come out, play hard,” fifth-year forward Lien Phillip said. “We have three guys on their fifth year, there’s nothing to lose.”
The Lancers are a team that relies on key veterans, Phillip and fellow fifth-year starters Josh Collins and Enrico Diloreto. Head coach Chris Oliver can try different things, because it’s now or never for his squad. “My motto for this year is,” Phillip said, “No regrets.”
The Rams offset Windsor’s rebounding edge in the second quarter, but that changed nothing on the scoreboard. The Lancers kept the Rams at arm’s length—and they did so by relying on, of all things, a full-court press on defense. This could have backfired against a team as athletic as the Rams, but it instead was effective in disrupting its offensive rhythm.
“Their press caught us off guard, because no team really presses us because of our speed,” Ryerson’s Jones said. “They were committed to it and they kept us off balance the whole time.”
That’s the beauty of relying on veterans who have seen it all. It’s “no regrets,” and sometimes that means that you’ll take a three-point shot from the top of the key right before the halftime buzzer to give your team a 41-35 lead.
In other words, sometimes you’re Windsor’s Diloreto and there’s not one shot that you’ve ever seen that you didn’t like or, more importantly, that you thought you couldn’t hit.
But the Rams have veterans, too. There’s third-year Aaron Best, fourth-year Jordon Gauthier—against Windsor, Jones by himself was just about enough.
What had made the Windsor press so effective in the first half was foul trouble to Ryerson’s Jones, who only played 12 minutes and managed eight points in the first 20 minutes. “I felt like I had a monkey on my back,” he said. “I knew that if we could get some aggressive moves to the paint, it would spark us.”
Spark the Rams, it did.
When he hit a lay-up just a minute into the third quarter, you could see the mild-mannered Jones urge his teammates on. He hit four of five shots in the period, and his 10 points almost matched Windsor’s total of 12. Jones was just getting warmed up, too, as he scored 13 points in the final quarter on his way to a career-high tally of 31.
This season is still very young, but the Rams’ leader has been as impressive as any player in the OUA so far and could be the key to breaking the Ottawa hegemony at the top of the East division. This all comes on the heels of what was a disappointing 2012-2013 season.
“I promised myself to forget about my third year,” Jones said. “I overanalyzed things last year and made it hard for myself, so this year I’m just playing with a free spirit, having fun and enjoying it. In one more year, my time’s up so I have to enjoy it now.”
Offensively, Diloreto led the charge for the Lancers with 20 points. Phillip had 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds while fourth-year Khalid Abdel-Gabar came off the bench to score 17 points in 24 minutes of play. “They wanted it more than us,” Phillip said. “As a team, they wanted it more than us.”
This is the third loss for the Lancers this season, but it would be silly to predict doomsday in Windsor. Not only have they already played the OUA East trifecta (i.e. No. 1-ranked Carleton Ravens, No. 3-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees and No. 6-ranked Ryerson Rams), the Lancers also played each away from home.
They will try to rekindle with their winning ways when they visit the Toronto Varsity Blues on Nov. 16.
“It’s my last year and the end of my career,” Phillip said. “We have to give it all we can, and I’m trying to tell the young guys the same thing. It’s going to go by fast.”
If Jones led the way for the Rams with a game-high 31 points, he wasn’t alone. Third-year guard Aaron Best scored 17 points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds. Fourth-year forward Bjorn Michaelsen also scored in double figures with 12 points.
“I think we still have some room to grow,” Rana said. “We’re not firing on all cylinders right now, but we’re winning games and that’s nice to see.”
Next for Ryerson is a game against the Western Mustangs, who remain winless so far this season. The contest is set for 8 p.m.
NPH TOP PERFORMERS
- Lien Phillip: 17 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
- Khalid Abdel-Gabar: 17 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist
- Enrico Diloreto: 20 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
- Jahmal Jones: 31 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
- Aaron Best: 17 points, 12 rebounds, 5 steals
- Bjorn Michaelsen: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG & NPH @Northpolehoops