In a dramatic nail-biter that went down to the wire, the Calgary Dinos edged the Ryerson Rams 67-65 in the first semifinal game of the U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Final 8.
“I think it was the most fun game we have played this year,” said Calgary forward Brett Layton, with a wide smile, during the post-game press conference.
He noted “it got stressful in the end,” when the Rams rallied from a double-digit deficit.
In a see-saw start to a re-match of last season’s national championship game, both teams took slim advantages.
Fifth-year guard Myles Charvis opened the scoring with a short jumper and drive to the hoop to give the Rams a 4-0 edge, while the Dinos responded with a lay-up from David Kapinga and turnaround base line shot from First Team All-Canadian Mambi Diawara.
Less than four minutes into the game, First Team All-Canadian Jean-Victor Mukama of the Rams took an early seat on the bench after drawing his second foul.
After a three-point bank shot from Charvis, the Rams led 9-8, before Layton meshed back-to-back hoops, including one strong move in the low post under tight coverage, to give the Dinos a 12-9 lead after the first five minutes.
On the strength of consecutive three-pointers from Andrew Milner and Lars Schlueter, the Dinos took an 18-14 edge after the first quarter.
Diawara netted the first points of the second, on a corner three-pointer, to give the Dinos their largest lead – 21-14.
After a Ryerson turnover, Calgary tried to extend their advantage, but Keevon Small blocked consecutive lay-up attempts by Kapinga and Diawara.
With his team down 23-14 – three minutes into the second quarter – Mukama returned to the floor.
On a graceful drive and floating short jumper by Diawara, the Dinos led 27-14.
The Rams went scoreless in the first five minutes of the second quarter.
After falling behind 29-14, Filip Vujadinovic made a left-handed drive and shot off the glass to end the Ryerson drought.
The Rams made a late 8-2 run – keyed by a three-pointer from Small and an old-fashioned three-point play from Tanor Ngom – to trim the Dinos’ lead to nine.
Schlueter made the last jumper of the first half – for three – to restore the Dinos’ double-digit edge at 36-24 heading to the locker room.
“We were able to keep them out of the paint,” said Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren, adding his team’s ability, particularly in the first half, to keep the game-changing Charvis out of the lane.
“But we didn’t do as good a job in the second half.”
The third quarter started with Vujadinovic and Kapinga exchanging three-pointers.
Just two minutes into the second half, after a Schlueter shot from beyond the arc and a Layton score, the Dinos led 46-29
After a baseline drive and foul shot from Mukama, the Rams trailed 48-34 midway through the third quarter.
The Rams went on an 8-2 run, including three free throws from Mukuma, who was fouled attempting a three-pointer, and a Jayden Frederick hoop from downtown, to make it 54-44.
A tap-in by Layton, as the horn sounded to end the third quarter, restored the Dinos’ 12-point advantage.
“He saved us a lot today,” said Vanhooren, noting the 6-foot-8 forward collected seven offensive rebounds.
“That’s extra possessions that were key in what turned out to be a one-possession game.”
In the fourth quarter, at the 6:30 mark, the Rams reduced the deficit to single digits – 61-52 – on a drive from Charvis.
On the ensuing possession, Lucas Mannes of the Dinos was fouled, while shooting a three-pointer, and made all three foul shots.
Halfway through the final quarter, Small knocked down a corner three-pointer for Ryerson to make it 64-57.
After a three-pointer from Vujadinovic and another stellar left-handed lay-up from Charvis for the Rams, the Dinos’ lead was reduced to 66-62 with just over three minutes remaining in regulation.
Off a long offensive rebound, Charvis knocked down a shot from downtown to narrow the Calgary edge to 66-65.
With the Dinos up two, with less than 60 seconds remaining, they drove to the hoop to extend their edge, but Vujadinovic blocked a shot and the Rams headed off on the fast break. Charvis fed Vujadinovic and his three-point attempt rimmed out, but Ryerson kept possession.
On the inbounds play, with less than four seconds remaining, Mukama was called for stepping out of bounds.
Diawara missed his first free throw before purposely missing the second shot with only 0.9 seconds remaining.
Off the miss, a Hail Mary from the Rams, who outscored the Dinos 21-11 in the fourth quarter, came up short.
“We started to get in the paint more, in the fourth quarter, and our threes started to go down,” said Ryerson had coach Roy Rana.
He added, down the stretch, his team had too many costly turnovers.
“We were absolutely horrible,” said Vanhooren of the Dinos’ fourth-quarter performance, particularly on the defensive end.
He also credited the Rams for their comeback effort.
Diawara, the Dinos Player of the Game, finished with 17 points, seven steals, six rebounds and five assists, while Layton scored a double-double – 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Kapinga added 10 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Charvis, who garnered top player for the Rams, collected 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, while Vujadinovic chipped in 17 points and six rebounds.
Mukama added 10 points.
The Dinos will take on the Carleton Ravens/Dalhousie Tigers semifinal winner in the gold medal game Sunday at 5 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. PT, on Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet Now and TVA Sports, while the Rams will tip off against the loser of the Ravens/Tigers matchup in the bronze medal game at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT.
Players of the Game
- Calgary: Mambi Diawara
- Ryerson: Myles Charvis