The Rhode Island Rams have now matched their win total from a season ago thanks to a big 75-66 win over Brown this evening. Rhody was in control for most of this one before a late push from the Bears cut a 20-point URI lead to just two. But the Rams hit their free throws and got key stops down the stretch to pick up their first road win of 2013-14. Rhode Island now sits at 8-6 on the year as Atlantic 10 play looms on the horizon.
Most URI fans were expecting a close game tonight, and it certainly turned out to be just that. There’s just one problem, though… it shouldn’t have been all that tense. After trading baskets through the first 13 minutes of the game, the Rams ripped off a 25-8 run in the final 6:30 of the first half to take a 43-28 lead into the locker room. That’s right – 25 points in the final six and a half minutes. And when the lead grew to as much as 20 with 10:35 remaining, the rest of the game seemed to be a formality.
Not so fast. Brown ran off 10 straight points to cut the Rhode Island lead in half, then put together an 11-1 run thanks to back-to-back-to-back three pointers and all of a sudden it was 67-65 with 3:16 left in the game. The Rams were slow on defense during the stretch, and couldn’t put much together on offense either. It was kind of surprising to see, especially since Rhody had played so well on both ends of the floor up until that point.
The good news is that URI finished strong. Defensive stops, a key bucket from E.C. Matthews, and a perfect 6-6 from the line in the final minute sealed the win for Rhode Island. Xavier Munford led the way for the Rams with 25 points while Matthews added 21. Hassan Martin also turned in a stellar effort in his first collegiate start, scoring six points while added nine rebounds and six blocks.
Free throw shooting has been a problem for Rhody as of late, but not tonight. Dan Hurley’s squad connected on 19-22 attempts from the line, good for an 86 percent margin. And aside from the lapses late, URI’s defense was also strong. They forced 18 turnovers and held the Bears to under 40 percent shooting en route to the victory.
So once again, it wasn’t perfect. Rhode Island is lacking the killer instinct needed to put teams away. But thankfully their building up big enough leads so that it’s not costing them victories down the stretch. A win is a win, and URI played outstanding basketball for the majority of the game tonight, despite the near-collapse. We’ll have much more on this one coming up tomorrow.