On a frosty night in downtown Toronto, things were heating up in the Goldring Centre as the Toronto Varsity Blues men’s basketball team welcomed the Ryerson Rams onto their home court. This matchup was special for both teams, being the first-ever BIA Cup matchup between the two. The BIA Cup, introduced this year, honours the intercity rivalry between the two Toronto-based teams and includes all four matchups between Varsity Blues and Rams men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Toronto was coming into the game looking to improve their 2-6 record with a win over their division rivals, who were first in the East with a 6-2 record.
The game began with Ryerson demonstrating how they topped the East Division, winning the tipoff and immediately taking the ball to the basket. The Varsity Blues were working hard on defence, but found themselves in a 0-6 deficit before Sage Usher finally opened their account with a layup and foul. The Rams kept the ball moving quickly, scoring three straight baskets off turnovers, and built up an early lead. Toronto fought hard but struggled to keep up with the early pace set by the Rams, and the first quarter ended with Toronto trailing 21-13.
Toronto came out in the second half ready to pick up the pace, with captain Julian Clarke shooting back-to-back threes to bring the score to 21-19. The teams began exchanging baskets back and forth and both teams were working hard on defence. However, a couple of sloppy Toronto turnovers gave Ryerson a chance to build their lead back up to 25-19, and forcing the Blues to call a timeout.
Both teams then became very aggressive, committing reckless fouls, and it was clear that everyone was frustrated. Despite this, Ryerson kept up the pressure on Toronto and ended the period leading 43-32.
After the half, the teams were clearly ready to fight for the win again, exchanging baskets for several minutes. But Toronto seemed to get tired after some time and Ryerson took advantage, not letting up their pressure at all.
The Blues called a timeout halfway through the quarter to try to muster the inspiration to overcome the 55-40 deficit, and returned with a quick basket and foul. But Ryerson kept up their intensity, pushing to end the quarter with a 23-point advantage, leading 70-47.
The crowd gave a resounding cheer at the start of the fourth quarter to support the home team, and Toronto once again showed a brief spark of brilliance, scoring three straight baskets. Ryerson responded with a couple of quick points off steals to keep their lead strong. As the game wound down, the Varsity Blues were clearly frustrated, missing several free throws and turning the ball over multiple times.
The game ended with the Ryerson Rams defeating the Toronto Varsity Blues by a score of 92-68.
After the game, the Blues were disappointed in the loss, but were aware of where they went wrong.
“Turnovers were a big issue in that game,” says Clarke, who led the Blues with 15 points. “We were giving the ball away a lot, which against a team like [Ryerson] is huge.”
He understands that there is room for improvement on the team. “We need to work on keeping the ball a little better, and then we can get better chances and keep up with teams like that,” he says.
Looking at the remainder of the season, head coach John Campbell is still optimistic. “We have some things to improve as a team, but we’re slowly getting where we need to be,” he says. “If we keep working, we can hit our stride before playoffs and make a good run out of it.”
The Varsity Blues will be looking to get back to winning when they face the Algoma Thunderbirds on January 17.