THUNDER BAY – Any doubts the Lakehead Thunderwolves didn’t belong in the top 10 were quickly erased on Friday night.
Powered by a monstrous 26-point effort by homegrown fifth-year guard Karissa Kajorinne, the No. 10 Wolves rode a second-half wave and toppled the visiting No. 2 Ryerson Rams 72-63 at the C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse, their second win in their past four games over a ranked opponent.
Lakehead (8-1), down one at the break, poured in 52 second-half points against a Rams team that entered play allowing 49.5 points a night,
“It was a team effort. We all battled hard,” said Kajorinne, who had five points at the half.
“Defence was our main thing that we had to focus on. We knew we’d score back and forth, as long as we could hold them under a certain number we’d be fine. I think the most impressive thing was holding them to only five offensive rebounds, where I think they average 20 a game.”
After knocking off No. 4 Carleton on the road earlier this month, the Thunderwolves confidence was sky-high.
After a nine-point win over the previously unbeaten Rams (9-1), it’s stratospheric.
“Confidence definitely fuels the fire, but it has to be positive momentum moving forward and we can let anything slip from now on. We’ve just got to keep rolling, keep building, getting better," Kajorinne said.
Lakehead took the lead on the opening basket of the third quarter and never looked back. Kajorinne stretched the lead to four with a trey, and never lost focus, no matter how close the Rams crept.
Nikki Ylagan, a non-factor in the opening half, hit a pair of threes on consecutive possessions in the third that erased Ryerson baskets.
Then, after the Rams Bronwyn Williams closed the gap to three on the opening basket of the fourth, Kajorinne took over, nailing a three-pointer and followed with a bucket that pushed the LU lead to eight, up 51-43,
It was just that kind of night, Kajorinne said.
“I think the main thing is I finally made some open lay-ups,” said the Thunder Bay native, who was 3-for-8 from beyond the arc.
“I’ve been struggling lately, so it finally all came together tonight, shaking the rust off as the season goes.”
Thunderwolves coach said Kajorinne has provided plenty of spark this season, whether she’s starting like she did against the Rams, or coming off the bench as she’s done on other nights.
What a performance, he said.
“Tonight she stepped up and got some key steals for us down the stretch, executed some three-point plays we were looking at running for her and just played great defence as well.”
Not to be overlooked was the job Lily Gruber-Schulz and Charlotte Clifford did on three-time OUA all-star Sofia Paska, who entered the game averaging 20.3 points a night. Paska managed just five points on 1-of-7 shooting.
The plan was to not let her anywhere near the basket, Gruber-Schulz said.
“She can’t score if she can’t touch the ball, so it was important to keep her out of the paint. It was hard and I had the help of my teammates coming to double her,” said Gruber-Schulz, who also added 10 points.
“I think we were all pretty energetic about the game and it carried on to our defence which then carried on to our offence.”
The Wolves led by as many as 14 in the fourth.
Grant had another double-double for LU, collecting 14 points and a dozen rebounds. Jama Bin-Edward led the Rams with 11 points.
Lakehead hosts Toronto on Saturday night, their final game before the Christmas break.