By Jaspreet Grewal
Ryerson vs. Western
Not often will you find yourself in a gym – in Canada at least – sitting adjacent to Boston Celtic legend Bill Walton, and sandwiched between former Raptor GM Bryan Colangelo and current Raptor point guard Greivis Vasquez – unless of course you were at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on November 12th to catch the Ryerson Rams home opener against the Western Mustangs. Although Walton, Vasquez, and to a lesser extent, Colangelo, were recipients of countless photos and jeers from the crowd as they sat openly in the VIP seating area, they weren’t the only ones who received praise and commendation from a crowd full of exuberant and high-spirited Rams’ fans. Behind a stellar 19 point effort from Rams’ forward Jordan Gauthier — who scored using a myriad of paint and perimeter moves, while shooting a blistering 66% from the field– and floor general Jahmal Jones who steered the ship all night for the men in white, the Rams were able to put a stomping on the Mustangs, 81-47. Greg Morrow led Western with 17 points, albeit shooting an underwhelming 35% from the floor.
Defense seemed to be the prevalent theme throughout the first ten minutes of action for both clubs. Not only did each team struggle to establish fluidity on the offensive end – which can be ascribed to the smothering defense played by both teams- but players were also missing easy layups and shots that would normally be sure baskets. Although the Rams started off on a 9-2 run to begin the frame, behind their pack leader, Jones, who was seemingly all over the court throughout the entirety of the quarter- the Mustangs maintained their composure and battled through the jitters, ultimately seeing themselves up one, 15-14, at the end of the first. Morrow led the purple and white with six points in the opening quarter.
The second quarter seemed to be a polar opposite of the first frame, partly because the Rams’ defensive intensity soared through the roof as the minutes went by. JV Makuma and sharpshooter Aaron Best created a heap of matchup issues for the Mustangs on the offensive end, but their doggedness and overall commitment to Coach Roy Rana’s defensive philosophies were the cause to Western’s early collapse. The Rams were pressing consistently throughout the second quarter, ultimately forcing several turnovers and creating easy transition opportunities as a result. Although the Mustangs kept it close for the early portion of the frame, it became apparent the Ryerson’ sheer size and athleticism would take a toll on Western’s defensive abilities, which it did -particularly in the mid part of the second quarter. Eventually, after a monster tomahawk dunk from Ram’s big man Kadeem Green – who sent shockwaves through the foundation of the Mattamy Athletic Center — and a few high percentage baskets from Gauthier on the inside – Ryerson was able to seal the 38-24 lead at halftime.
The second half – which had remnants of the second quarter– allowed onlookers to grasp the depth and overall chemistry that Coach Rana governs and works with on daily basis. Bjorn Michaelsen didn’t miss a shot in his twenty minutes on the floor, accumulating 11 points in limited action, while Best was also able to assist in the scoring charge, finishing with 12 points and four rebounds. Much of the reason for the Mustang’s ineffectiveness on the defensive end lay on their lack of size and athleticism. Although the men in purple hung on tight for the first little while, it became painfully obvious what the outcome of the game would be after the first five minutes of action in the second half.
Durability seemed to be another kink in Western’s armor, particularly because much, if not all, of their energy was expended after the first quarter trying to matchup with bigger and stronger guys – understandably so. Ultimately, the Mustangs – although scoring their most points in the third quarter with 16 – failed to score even half of that in the fourth (seven points). The lack of scoring was largely due to the Ram’s consistent, stifling defensive pressure, but a lot of the deficiencies came from a lack of energy, an inability to play the full forty minutes with consistent energy.
In the end, it was Gauthier’s unique and uncanny ability to score on all areas of the floor and Jones’ unparalleled aptitude as a floor general that led the Rams to blow the game out of the water, eventually winning by 24 points, thus, adding to an already undefeated record.