Rocca rocks Rams in basketball upset


McMasterThe McMaster men’s basketball team, knowing it faced a tough challenge against the No. 4 nationally ranked Ryerson Rams, came up with a huge effort to thrill the Burridge Gym faithful and secured a 74-64 victory in Ontario University Athletics interlock play.

Playing without injured post Nathan McCarthy, coach Amos Connolly went to a smaller line-up with Leon Alexander moving to a post spot and Joe Rocca starting on the wing. It was an inspired decision as both Alexander and Rocca played key roles in the victory.

The teams wasted no time in getting the intensity level cranked up and with Rocca and Aaron Redpath hitting early treys, McMaster was able to grab an 8-2 lead. The Rams fought back to close the gap, and it was only a long three-pointer by Nate Pelech at the end of the first quarter that allowed McMaster to lead 21-18. The Marauders had played most of the period without Taylor Black, who went to the bench with two early fouls, and stayed there for the rest of the half.

Some fireworks erupted in the second quarter as Alexander posed a match-up problem for Ryerson because of his speed and slashing ability. With McMaster leading 31-23, Ryerson’s Yannick Walcott was called for a flagrant foul on Alexander and ejected from the game. However, the ejection seemed to focus the Rams who rallied to finish the quarter strongly and McMaster’s lead was just 34-33 at intermission.

Ryerson started the third looking to grab some momentum and took the lead 55-52. That’s when Adam Presutti hit two three-point shots to put McMaster back in front, and with contributions coming from Black, Alexander and Trevon McNeil, the Maroon lead grew to 53-46 after three quarters.

The fourth quarter belonged to Mac’s Rocca, who got in a zone and seemed to score every time Ryerson tried to make a run. Rocca scored seven straight points midway through the final stanza to keep the Marauder lead intact. He got some help in the period as Presutti and Black also hit clutch treys in the fourth and time ran out on the Rams.

Rocca was the top shooter for McMaster with 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting. Presutti drained five three-pointers on the night to add 15, while Black with 12 and Alexander with 11 also hit double figures. Ryerson was led by Jahmal Jones who scored 18, while Kadeem Green chipped in14.

Ryerson won the battle of the boards with 36 rebounds to McMaster’s 33.

As a team the Marauders were 12 of 28 from behind the arc, and that meant every fan in attendance received a McDonald’s gift certificate as part of a new promotion that awards free food from the Golden Arches to Marauder fans if the team hits 10 treys in any OUA game.