The Rhode Island Rams gave the defending A-10 champs everything they could handle, but in the end, the Saint Louis Billikens were just too much. SLU got an absolute monster effort from Jordair Jett (31 points) as they held on to beat Rhody 59-58. The game was a nail-biter down the stretch and the Rams had their chances, but missed free throws, turnovers, and a questionable no-call in the final minute let to a URI loss. The Rams now sit at 9-7 on the season and 0-1 in Atlantic 10 play.
The first half started with the two teams trading baskets for the first 11 minutes before the Billikens took control. Saint Louis ran off an 8-0 run that saw Rhody go six minutes without a field goal. URI tried to close the gap a bit but Jett scored his team’s last nine points of the half (including a layup at the buzzer) to give SLU a 27-19 lead heading into the locker room.
Two and a half minutes into the second frame and this one looked over. The Billikens rattled off a mini 6-2 run to jump on top by 12 at 33-21. But Rhody wasn’t done fighting just yet. The Rams banged out a 21-6 run to surge ahead 46-41 with 8:48 remaining. Saint Louis answered with five straight to even the score and it was ties and lead-changes time. There were five of each in the final 7:41, but the last minute is where things got really interesting.
An official timeout with 1:14 left to review a shot-clock violation allowed Dan Hurley to draw up a play with his team down 57-54. E.C. Matthews promptly buried a three with 57 seconds left to knot things up at 57 apiece, and it was SLU’s turn to answer. The Billikens turned it over on their next possession, but Xavier Munford coughed it up on URI’s end. Dwayne Evans missed a layup with 30 seconds remaining and it looked like the Rams would at least get to overtime. They had the ball with the shot clock off for the final possession.
Not so fast. Jett fouled Munford near midcourt, but X was only able to convert one of the two freebies. Jett was fouled driving the lane on the ensuing possession and hit both shots from the stripe. With the Rams down one and seven seconds to play, Munford drove the length of the floor and was bumped by Jett with the ball coming loose. There was no call, and a last-ditch heave by URI was unsuccessful.
Foul or no foul aside, the Rams (specifically Munford) turned it over twice in the final minute and missed a crucial free throw that was the difference in this one. The other difference was Jordair Jett. The senior dropped 31 points on 10-18 shooting, including 2-2 from downtown. He also converted on 9-13 of his free throw attempts, carrying his team to victory at the Ryan Center.
This one is tough to swallow, but let’s play glass-half-full for a second. URI hung with one of the better teams in the A-10 – the defending conference champs, no less – for forty minutes. If you’re looking for an encouraging sign going forward, that’s it right there. Rhody is still playing very good basketball; they just happened to run into a star player on an incredibly hot night. We’ll give this one a second look coming up tomorrow.