Wow. You doing OK after that one, Rhody Nation? The Rhode Island Rams came into St. Louis and defeated one of the better teams in the Atlantic 10 in overtime, 82-80. In an absolutely fantastic game, the Rams and Billikens went back and forth for much of the second half, and it was only fitting to see this one go into overtime. This one had many similarities to the Auburn win - both games on the road, both games went into OT, and both games had heart-stopping moments and clutch baskets. Also, the Auburn win was Rhody’s first non-conference win of the season, and tonight’s W was URI’s first conference win of the season. The Rams move to 6-10 on the year and 1-2 in conference play.
The Billikens got off to a hot start, leading by as many as nine at 24-15 with 4:55 remaining in the first half. But the Rams stayed strong over the remaining five minutes, closing on a 11-5 run and training by only three heading into the locker room. The second half started with two quick buckets for URI to take a one point lead and it was off to the races. From that point on there were nine ties and 16 lead changes… and that was just in the second half. Two big threes by Mike Powell and Xavier Munford in the final two minutes kept the Rams from letting this one slip away, and the back-and-forth basketball fittingly ended with the game going to overtime.
In the OT, St. Louis held a three-point lead on three different occasions before a big Nikola Malesevic three tied things at 74-74 with 1:21 to play. From there, the Rams got two huge stops and opened up a four point lead. Try as they did, the Billikens were not able to recover, and Rhody came away with a big conference road win. The Rams scored an amazing 17 points in the five-minute overtime, and 82 overall against one of the better defenses in the conference. This game saw 11 ties and 21 lead changes by our count, as it was just a wild affair at the Chaifetz Arena in front of a raucous Billikens crowd. Every time it looked like either team was going to pull away, the other squad fought back before Rhody finally delivered the knock-out blow in overtime.
Rhody’s offense had sort of a break-out game; besides the 82 points, the shot 55 percent from the field, 53 percent from three-point range, and 86 percent from the line. Every player who saw minutes for the Rams scored at least one point. Munford, the Atlantic 10′s leading scorer, led the way with 24. X shot 8-14 from the floor, including 4-8 from three. Powell and Malesevic chipped in with 14 apiece, and Jordan Hare rounded out the double-figure scorers with 10. Andre Malone and T.J. Buchanan also played well, pouring in 9 and 5, respectively. And in a game where they didn’t have Mike Aaman, the Rams still won the rebounding battle, 34-27.
It was one of the best efforts of the season for the Rams against an outstanding St. Louis team. If they can play like this every night, their chances of making it to Brooklyn improve dramatically. Credit to Dan Hurley and the entire coaching staff for preparing the team incredibly well, and it resulted in the Rams coming away with a fantastic win. We’ll have much more on this one tomorrow.