U Sports Basketball: Toronto is split in half, at least when it comes to basketball

Ivan hypes up the already raucous crowd (Christian Bender)

Whether it’s the Toronto Raptors NBA championship victory or the enclosed space, there was something special about Wednesday night’s basketball games between Toronto and Ryerson at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

As has been discussed in this space before, U Sports usually doesn’t attract many fans or create memorable atmospheres, but at Ryerson, it offers all of the above. Fans packed the Coca-Cola Court early for the 6:00 game and didn’t leave until the final buzzer near 10:00.

On the court, both games were electric as well, with pushing, skill and anger all on display in the cross-town rivalry.

Ryerson Rams 75-56 University of Toronto Varsity Blues

The Ryerson Women started their game slow but crawled back to hold a slim lead at half time. It was a timeout in the second quarter which changed the game’s path, a coaching decision that Ram’s head coach Carly Clarke should be proud of.

After getting control of the lead, the Rams never looked back and dominated the entirety of the second half. “We had a good half time talk, and the crowd really pumped us up,” said coach Clarke after the game.

Ryerson is in a rebuilding stage, and are learning to take the more valuable shot this season. This is a change from last year when they relied mainly on high percentage scoring chances. This year, with the transition to shooting the three-pointer more often, the rams have been successful, despite the low percentage shots.

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Scotten has been key to the Rams success so far this season
(Christan Bender)

One of the key components of Ryerson’s success is the play of Marin Scotten, a second-year journalism student from Ottawa.

Last season, she averaged around 10 points per game, far less than she is this year, where she has had four performances over the 16 point mark. The change has been a tough one, but the quad has adjusted well, putting them second in their conference, only trialling the Brock Badgers.

A graph showing the percentage of Ryerson’s points come from Scotten each game.

On the Varsity Blue’s side of the court, things are not looking as promising, with their women’s team sitting second-last in the conference, and hopes of playoffs evaporating faster than water on a hot day. The only small solace that the blues can think of is the fact that they are not last in the OUA, as long as Lakehead, Ontario Tech and Algoma all stick around. The 1-8 record isn’t great, but a turnaround after the new year could propel their squad into the postseason. That’s unlikely to happen after such a slow start to the season, but anything is a possibility.

The rivalry game puts an end to Ryerson’s home games in 2019, as fans of the downtown school will have to wait until the new year to see their girls hit the court again. Toronto will return home to face the McMaster Marauders Saturday at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport.

Ryerson University Rams 73-80 University of Toronto Varsity Blues

Ryerson’s Teevaun Kokko attempts a layup (Christian Bender)

Even more people flowed into the gymnasium for the final game of the night, which did not even feature a top 10 team in the country. Ryerson did earn themselves 53 votes in Tuesday’s U Sports top ten, but that was only enough to warrant an honourable mention.

The game presented a valuable chance for the Varsity Blues to gain some ground d on their rivals and the rest of the Conference. Ryerson sat two points ahead of the Blues prior to the game, and both teams found themselves in the bottom half of the OUA West.

Ryerson are in a re-tooling year, as they try to find their identity following the departure of legendary coach Roy Rana to the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. Most of their new identity revolves around superstar Teavun Kokko, who leads all of the OUA with the most points per game (23) and three-point shots (39). Kokko arrived this season after a two years at Laurier, and Wednesday was just another game where he made his presence felt, putting up 15 points.

Although Ryerson had four players score double digit points, it was not enough to keep their home court advantage in their loss. The game was very close throughout, and the Blues did not extended their lead above six until the final quarter.

This season feels a little different for many members competing in OUA mens basketball; with the emergence of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) and the chance to be drafted straight out of U Sports. Keevon Small of Ryerson spoke about it after the game saying “It’s great for the Canadian game to give us guys a place to play in the summer and a place to look at after our U Sports careers.” The league’s players have not changed their approach though, as they continue to strive towards their best possible performances.

Both teams will follow their women’s teams into the final weekend of the 2019 part of the season, with both teams hoping to end the first half on a winning note.

Cover Photo: Christian Bender (Basically all the photos on this website until I get a camera)

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