Rookie Tanner Graham led men’s basketball to a crucial victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues on Friday.
The first-year guard put up 24 points as the Gaels topped the Blues 82-74. The win kept Queen’s (4-8) a single win ahead of Toronto (3-9) for the OUA East’s final playoff spot.
While Graham’s heroics led to a victory against Toronto, he only managed to score seven points the next night as the Gaels suffered a 90-65 defeat to the East-leading Ryerson Rams.
“[Graham] is going to be a great player in this league,” said head coach Stephan Barrie. “His battle right now is to try to be really good every night.
“We’re seeing it in flashes, in parts of games and that was pretty much a full game where he played great,” Barrie added. “We just have to push him to get those kinds of performances constantly — each quarter, each game.”
The Gaels were outscored 29-15 in the first quarter against Toronto before Barrie made a few adjustments.
“They had really good energy and certainly there was initial parts where our defence was good,” he said. “We were pressuring too much and getting beat off the dribble, so we just had to back off the pressure somewhat and that helped us.”
Barrie said the team remained composed despite falling behind early.
“They were fine,” he said. “I think they realized that they were doing a lot of good things, there were just some very, very small details that were not there that were hurting us.”
The Gaels tied the game at 50 late in the third quarter when guard Patrick Street faked out his man and knocked down a three right in front of the Gaels bench.
Queen’s held on for the win in a high-scoring final quarter.
With the playoff implications of the Toronto game, the Gaels’ singular focus prohibited the team from doing any extensive preparation for Ryerson on Saturday.
“We paid no attention on the Ryerson game up until the minute the U of T game ended because we just had to have that U of T one,” Barrie said. “It was more about just coming out and playing with a certain competitive fire.”
The Gaels couldn’t find their offensive game against Ryerson, scoring only 29 points by halftime.
The final score was 90-65 for Ryerson, who lead the East division with 24 points compared to the Gaels’ eight.
“We were just poor in a few parts of the game that I just felt really affected the overall score,” Barrie said. “That game was more about defence versus an athletic team — we didn’t have enough in the tank, I think, to stop them.”
The men take on the Windsor Lancers (8-4) and the Western Mustangs (8-5) on the road this weekend.
“Both teams are playing really, really well right now, so it’s going to be a tough, tough road trip,” Barrie said.
Ryerson and Windsor have similar up-tempo playing styles, Barrie said, so it’s important the Gaels tighten up their transition game before the weekend.
“We’re watching films on those teams in transition to try to see how important it is for us to make sure we get back with a greater sense of urgency,” he said.
“That’s going to be one of the biggest keys going into this weekend.”
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