The Rams men’s basketball team squandered a seven-point fourth quarter lead, losing to the Queen’s Gaels 87-81 Friday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The fourth quarter started well for the Rams, as first-year guard Ankit Choudhary was fouled on a three-point attempt, sending him to the free throw line where he made all of his shots.
In response the Gaels went on a 16-0 run. The Rams did not close out on shooters, allowing fifth-year Gaels guard Quinton Gray to hit two three-pointers. Fourth-year guard Cameron Bett and third-year guard Cole Syllas also hit a three each for Queen’s.
The Gaels had a nine-point lead with just over six minutes left in the game before third-year Rams guard Marcus Upshaw made a jump shot and second-year guard Mouhamed Ndiaye split a pair of free throws, bringing the deficit to six points.
The teams would trade three-pointers courtesy of Gray and Choudhary before first-year Queen’s forward Brandon Aultman was sent to the free throw line, knocking down both. Gray would hit another three, extending the lead to 11 points for the Gaels.
Second-year Rams guard Tyler Sagl answered with his first and only basket of the night, cutting the lead to eight points with just over two minutes left in the game. Queen’s called timeout.
Rams assistant coach Mario Celebre said that during the timeout the team talked about applying pressure on the defensive side of the ball, and then finding good quality shots on offence.
“At that point, you probably only have four or five possessions on the offensive side of the ball left in the game; you probably need a score on all to come out with the victory,” said Celebre.
Out of the timeout Bett sunk another three, bringing the lead back to 11. Ndiaye was sent to the line again, making both of his free throws. First-year forward Aaron Rhooms was fouled on a jump shot with 54 seconds left in the game, giving him a chance for a free throw that he made.
The Rams were able to force a miss from the Gaels, but Sagl took a contested three on the other end after being open briefly. The Gaels grabbed Sagl’s miss and kept the ball for the remainder of the game, marking the Rams first loss on the season after missing over a year and half of OUA basketball due to COVID-19.
Sagl finished the night shooting one for 10. After the game he stayed on the court to put up more shots after his poor shooting performance.
Shooting on the other end of the court was Choudhary, who came off the bench and led the Rams in points with 26, which he scored in only 24 minutes.
Choudhary said that when his three-point shot is falling he does a better job of creating for his teammates as well as taking more difficult shots. “I’m just trying to really figure out the perfect balance for that in order to be even more effective,” said Choudhary.
He said the team needs to do a better job of sharing the ball offensively. The Rams had only 13 assists on 78 attempted shots.
The Rams also went ice cold from three, only making six compared to the Gaels’ 13 successful threes.
“Today was a game that was super winnable,” said Choudhary. “We shot ourselves in the foot by not playing how we normally play. We went away from what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s on us, and it’s unfortunate.”
Despite the loss, Celebre was impressed by what he saw from Choudhary and first-year forward Rhooms, who had 19 points for the Rams as a starter.
“From what we’ve seen thus far, they don’t play like freshmen, they shine in big moments,” said Celebre.
Celebre said that in order to beat the Gaels two days from now the team needs to compete better on defence and move the ball on offence.
“That really wants to be your identity going forward.”
The Rams will play the Queen’s Gaels again at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Nov. 8.