The Rhode Island Rams did it again. Another last-second shot by Rhody sank the Dayton Flyers for the third time in the past five years (if you can believe it), and the Rams came away with a dramatic 75-72 victory at the Ryan Center. Marquis Jones, who wore number 5 for URI, beat Dayton in 2009 with a circus layup at the buzzer, then beat them again with a three pointer in the final seconds in 2010. This season number 5 did it again, except this year it’s Xavier Munford who dons that jersey for the Rams. Similar to Jones’ second game-winner, X buried a three in the final seconds for the Rhody win, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. The win moves URI to 2-8 in the Atlantic 10 and 7-16 overall.
Dayton came out of the gate hot tonight, using 8-11 shooting to open up a 17-8 lead in the first 5:49. But the Rams came storming back, cutting the lead to 23-22 following a Mike Powell three pointer with 9:29 to play in the half. Both teams went cold from there, but a Jordan Hare buzzer beater gave Rhody a 32-31 lead heading into the locker room. URI came out on a mission to start the second half, and back-to-back threes by Nikola Malesevic and Andre Malone gave the Rams a 44-37 lead. It wouldn’t last long however, as Dayton put together a 5-0 run to cut URI’s lead to two. And that became the theme of the second half; Rhode Island built leads, but UD would not go away. Rhody went up 50-42, and the Flyers ran off five straight to get it back to three. The lead again went to eight at 60-52, and another 5-0 run cut it back to a manageable deficit for Dayton. Then the craziness started.
Two Mike Powell free throws put the Rams up 72-69 with 33 seconds left, and Dyshawn Pierre missed a jumper for UD. Munford was fouled with 17 seconds left, but missed the front-end of a 1-and-1. Kevin Dillard came down and promptly buried a three for the Flyers to tie things up at 72 apiece. With nine ticks to play, the Rams got the ball in the hands of Munford. He pulled up on the right wing and sank the game-winning three with a hand in his face and two seconds left on the clock, and it was all over from Kingston. The dramatic wins over the Dayton Flyers are becoming an annual Rhode Island tradition, it seems.
Lost in the shuffle from the dramatic win was an outstanding game from Nik Malesevic. The senior posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also filled up the stat sheet with seven assists, three steals, and two blocked shots in an outstanding all-around effort. Besides playing hero, Munford once again led the Rams in scoring with 18 points. Mike Powell chipped in with 10 points, and Mike Aaman added 11 off the bench to round out four players in double figures for URI. The Rams shot 50 percent from the floor, 45.5 percent from three, and had 19 assists on 28 made field goals. Rhody also blocked nine shots, with Munford and Jordan Hare contributing three apiece.
The heroics of Xavier Munford will be what people remember, but this was an outstanding all-around team victory. We’ll have much more on this one coming up tomorrow, which should give Rhody fans ample time for their heart rate to return to normal as they bask in one of the most dramatic wins of the season.