The Rhode Island Rams overcame a 12-point first half deficit and squeezed out an exciting, nail-biting win against the George Mason Patriots this afternoon at the Ryan Center. Rhody cut the margin down to four at the half and battled back to take a lead in the second frame. And it was mayhem from there. But URI was able to throw the last punch to pick up their first conference win of the season. The Rams also avoided dropping below .500 on the season as they moved to 10-9 (1-3) on the year.
Shockingly, Rhode Island got off to a slow start in this one. URI did make the expected change to the starting lineup, inserting T.J. Buchanan for Biggie Minnis, but it didn’t help kick-start the offense. Rhody was down 20-8 early on and things looked pretty bleak in Kingston.
Not so fast. The Rams put together a comeback filled with solid defense and better offensive sets as they were within striking distance heading into the tunnel. URI took their first lead at 39-37 with 10:36 to play in regulation. It was a back and forth nail-biter from there. Rhody had a couple of chances to win the game in regulation, but a few missed free throws allowed the Patriots to hang on and force overtime.
OT saw more craziness. Thanks to Xavier Munford, the Rams held a three-point lead with just seconds to play. Dan Hurley called for his team to foul intentionally to avoid a three from George Mason. But the plan backfired as Byron Allen saw the foul coming and jacked up a half-court heave, sending him to the line for three free throws. He canned all three with just two seconds left and all things pointed to double-OT. But a touchdown-pass heave from Buchanan to Gilvydas Biruta got the ball near the basket, and the Lithuanian big man drew a foul with just 0.7 seconds to play. Biruta nailed both from the line to seal the victory.
Outside of the crazy ending, Xavier Munford was the story today. The senior dropped 28 points on 9-20 shooting, 4-9 from three. His game-high point total included several big shots (and big free throws) down the stretch. X was determined to get URI’s first win tonight, and he led the way to victory.
Was it pretty? Not really. But who cares about pretty? The Rams got the proverbial monkey off their back as they halted a three-game losing streak. We’ll have much more on this one coming up tomorrow.