Adika Peter-McNeilly (Scarborough, Ont.) once again led the Rams offensively with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists, but it was the impact performance of freshman Keevon Small (Montreal, Que.) that was the difference. Small posted a career-high 17 points and added five rebounds and four steals.
In their opening game of 2017, both teams struggled out of the gate. In the first ten minutes the teams combined for just 19 points and the Rams held a slim 11-8 advantage.
Midway through the second quarter Lakehead took their first lead of the game at 21-19 but the lead didn't last long. The teams traded buckets down the stretch and Thunderwolves guard Nick Burke hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to cut Ryerson's lead to just one at 34-33 at halftime.
Lakehead looked to have made the necessary adjustments early in the third quarter as they opened the frame with eight of the first 10 points to take a 41-36 lead.
Just over two and a half minutes into the second half, both head coaches seemed to get fired up and exchanged pleasantries along the sideline. Whatever was said helped fuel both teams, as the energy ramped up in Coca-Cola Court.
Keevon Small collected the first of his two inbound steals and slam dunks which was followed shortly thereafter by a dunk-of-the-year candidate from Lakehead's Bacarius Dinkins. When the dust settled, the teams were still tied, 45-45.
The teams continued to trade blows down the stretch in the third quarter before the definitive turning point in the game. With just 13 seconds remaining in the frame, Manny Diressa (Toronto) knocked down a pull-up three-ball to give the Rams a 53-48 advantage. Then, Small collected his second inbound steal and dunk to quickly make it 55-48. On the ensuing inbounds, Small collected yet another steal before he was fouled and added one free throw. The six points in 13 seconds sucked the life out of the Thunderwolves, and paved the way for the Rams big fourth quarter.
Riding the momentum from their freshman's play, Ryerson shot the lights out in the fourth quarter and piled on 32 points to turn a close contest into the 22-point victory.
The Rams move to 8-0 on the season while Lakehead drops to 2-6 on the year. Ryerson is back in action on Saturday night when they host the Guelph Gryphons starting at 8:00 p.m. That game can be seen live on OUA.tv and Rogers TV Toronto.