It wasn’t exactly the prettiest of wins, but the Rhode Island Rams notched their second consecutive victory, 67-62 over the Duquesne Dukes. In a tight back-and-forth game, Rhody came from behind down the stretch, holding the Dukes to just one field goal in the final four minutes and six seconds. The win means the Rams now have a berth to the Atlantic 10 Tournament in their sights, although they’ll need a little help. URI moves to 8-16 overall and 3-8 in conference play.
In a closely contested first half, the biggest lead for either team didn’t come until there were seven seconds remaining in the frame. After a Mike Aaman put-back, the Rams took a 33-28 advantage, which was the same margin headed into the locker room. The second half saw Rhode Island jump out to a 41-33 lead before Duquesne battled back. The Dukes pieced together a 14-2 run to take a four-point lead, but Rhody was able to answer. Nikola Malesevic led the comeback, scoring five points in an 8-2 URI run. And when Duquesne built another four-point lead with 4:06 left, it was the senior from Serbia once again. This time Rhody went on a 8-1 run, with Nik again netting five of the points. Two Derrick Colter free throws down the stretch were no help to the Dukes, and URI now has their first winning streak since December.
Not surprisingly, Malesevic was the star for the Rams. He led Rhode Island in scoring with 19 points on 8-13 shooting, including 3-5 from three. He also added seven rebounds and several hustle plays, including a couple of key offensive boards down the stretch when the Rams desperately needed a bucket. Xavier Munford was the only other Ram in double-figures with 14 points, but he posted just 3-11 shooting. On the plus side, X recorded four rebounds, six assists, and a perfect 7-7 performance from the line. Jordan Hare and Mike Powell added nine points apiece, and T.J. Buchanan chipped in with eight points off the bench.
URI won the battle on the glass in this one with a slim 37-34 rebounding margin. But the game was really decided at the free-throw line: Rhody shot an impressive 82.4 percent from the stripe, while the Dukes shot just 42.9 percent. Colter led all scorers, pouring in 20 points and adding five rebounds and seven assists in the loss.
The win was a big one for Rhody, and scenarios regarding a trip to Brooklyn start to come into play. Although the Rams don’t control their own destiny, they just need to keep winning. They’re likely not looking too far ahead, and just focusing on picking up more wins as the season winds down. But Rhody fans will no doubt bask in this mini winning streak for a little bit, and we’ll have much more on this one coming up tomorrow.