TORONTO — For the majority of 33 minutes, the No. 5 Ryerson Rams were leading the No. 1 Carleton Ravens, and it was an upset in the making.
But then it was the Ravens who showed why they are now 18-0 on the season, making shot after shot and avoiding the upset by pulling off a 71-68 victory over Ryerson at Coca-Cola Court.
In front of an energetic and loud crowd, Ryerson got out to an early lead in the first quarter, silencing the Carleton offence and leading 13-9 after 10 minutes.
It was Carleton’s lowest scoring start in 2013-14.
“We pride ourself on defence every night,” Roy Rana, head coach of the Rams said post-game.
“Tonight, we came out and were really focused, we executed the game plan pretty well throughout the whole game so it was a great defensive effort against a great team.”
Carleton would battle back in the second quarter, going on a 9-0 run in a span of two minutes. Ryerson wouldn’t back down as first-year guard, Adika Peter-McNeilly (Scarborough, Ont.) would nail a three-pointer to put the Rams back within one. He would add a free-throw before the end of the half and Ryerson led 28-27 at recess.
It was the first time all season that Carleton trailed at the half.
The third quarter featured back and forth play from each team, with Adam Voll (Kitchener, Ont.) stepping up big down low defensively for Ryerson in relief of Kadeem Green who was forced to the bench with four fouls.
“For a freshman, you’ve got to be encouraged about his level of compete he didn’t back down, played really aggressive, really hard, bodes well for the future for him and for our program,” Rana said.
CIS back-to-back most valuable player the last two seasons, Philip Scrubb also heated up in the third quarter. Scrubb and Peter-McNeilly went back and forth all quarter long and put on a treat for the fans. Scrubb finished with a team-high 22 points.
After Ryerson took a 51-44 lead entering into the fourth frame, the momentum started to shift in the direction of the defending CIS champion from the last three seasons. Eventually Carleton tied the game at 6:40 of the quarter after Scrubb nailed a shot from beyond the arc to make it 57-57.
The Ravens used four free-throws to take 70-65 lead with 20 seconds remaining. Then with 17.4 seconds left Peter-McNeilly hit a three-pointer to put the Rams within two.
He described the shot as something that he dreamed about.
“I had a vision that was going in before I even shot it, so like I knew it was going in,” Peter-McNeilly said. “(It was) something unique.”
A Rams foul would seal the deal as Carleton nailed both free throws to finish the night shooting 82.6 per cent from the line.
Rana was impressed with Peter-McNeilly’s play against the nation’s best. The 6’3″ guard finished with a game-high 26 points.
“When he went down with injury, that really hurt us. Kind of the first day that he’s been back that he’s been feeling 100 per cent and he’s just a huge piece of our team, he’s just so calm, so cool under pressure, he’s just a great player, we’re really happy he’s with us.”
The loss drops Ryerson to 13-5 on the season, and with the push for the playoffs now in full-swing, it is crunch time for the Rams.
“We’ve got to take it every game, one at a time and hopefully just collect as many wins as we can before the next phase of our season,” Rana said.
Ryerson travels to Algoma to face the Thunderbirds next Friday, Feb. 7 and then Laurentian on Saturday. Peter-McNeilly says that this game was a momentum booster for the team.
“It’s good because we go on the road next weekend and it’s just good we’re going to have that vengence that, hey, we want to win that next game going into playoffs. We want to win that game because it’s necessary.”