GUELPH, ON - There was a booming sound coming from the halls of the W.F. Mitchell Centre late Wednesday night. The Guelph Gryphons men's basketball team were responsible. And the noisy celebration was well earned. More than a few hearts stopped beating along the way as the Gryphons pulled the shock upset of the 2015/16 season by downing the CIS No. 1-ranked Ryerson Rams 96-92 in front of a thrilled Mitchell Centre crowd.
Head coach Chris O'Rourke said it was one of the biggest games for the program in recent memory.
"We had nothing to lose," the coach said of a victory that snapped Ryerson's 11-game win streak. "They're No. 1, we're in a precarious position. We played fearless."
Third-year guard Jonathan Wallace led the way, pouring in a career-high 27 points for Guelph (8-8), while Ahmed Haroon added 20 and a game-high 12 rebounds. Guard Daniel Dooley hit some huge shots, as well, finishing the night with 19 points and a game-high 9 assists.
The Gryphons often played beautiful basketball, which was impressive given their position and the caliber of opponent.
"It's big for us, "said Wallace, suggesting the win will galvanize an already tight team. "We're fighting for our lives.
"We like each other as a group. This is the kind of win that brings a team together. It makes you want to get to practice, it gives us motivation. This is exactly what we needed."
The wild finish had hearts pumping. Guelph rebounded from a poor third quarter and executed well in a fourth that produced 68 total points. The Gryphons built an 87-79 lead with 1:04 on the clock. But Ryerson's Adika Peter-McNeilly scored 11 of his game-high 34 points in the final minute of the game. His third 3-pointer of the night with 46 seconds left got Ryerson to within 3 points at 90-87.
But the Gryphons nailed their free throws down the stretch, four from Dooley and the final two by Jack Beatty to ice it.
Guelph came out flying and produced one of its best halves of basketball this season. The hosts flowed offensively and played intense defence that clearly rattled the Rams. The Gryphons led 21-19 after the first quarter but dominated the nation's top team in an incredible second quarter. Guelph out scored Ryerson 30-17 in the second to head into the half up 15. They were red hot from long range, nailing 8 of 17 3-pointers in the half, including 3 of 4 from Haroon.
"We were up 15 at the half but we knew they would make a run," said O'Rourke. "We kept talking about it. We had to weather the storm. The guys responded. Composure was the key."
The Gryphons shot a sizzling 41.4 per cent from behind the arc (12 of 29), with Haroon and Wallace hitting 4 3-pointers each. They also made 18 of 24 from the line, including the numerous clutch free throws down the stretch, when the nerves were at their highest.
Wallace relished the chance to upset the No. 1 Rams. And he was ready for it.
"I knew we were capable of doing it," said Wallace. "I felt in the zone. When I had shots, I wanted to stick them."
Source: Gueph Gryphons