The University of Rhode Island women’s basketball team defeated reigning Atlantic 10 Conference champion and top-ranked scoring defense, Fordham University on Sunday afternoon, 71-56.
With the victory, Rhode Island clinches its first winning season since 2003-2004, when the team finished at 16-13. Â The Rams are currently 15-9 with a 7-5 record in the Atlantic 10.
“I told them that at the end of the game, I should be able to look down the stats sheet and see a lot of people with double figures and that’s exactly what happened,” Rhode Island head coach Daynia La-Force said. “Each one of them had an opportunity to score or go one-on-one against the Fordham players and to capitalize on that opportunity.”
“The entire team played with confidence against Fordham and I think that’s key to turning the program around, believing that we can beat the better teams in our conference.”
Junior forward Samantha Tabakman got out to a fast start, scoring the first nine points for Rhode Island. Â The Rams led 17-9 at the 13:35 mark following a 3-point shot from junior guard Tayra Melendez.
Fordham evened the score at 17 just past the 10-minute mark following an 8-0 run, which was capped off with a three from guard Hannah Missry. Â URI briefly retook the lead before Fordham came back and pulled ahead to make it 30-23 with 2:51 left in the opening half. Â Freshman guard Charise Wilson provided two consecutive baskets to put the Rams within two with 56 seconds remaining in the half. Fordham extended their lead to four, 32-28, entering halftime.
Rhode Island opened the second half continuing to build on their momentum with an 8-0 run of their own to take the lead back. Â Melendez expanded on that lead with back-to-back layups and senior guard Teneka Whittaker knocked down Rhode Island’s second 3-pointer to give them their first double-digit lead of the game with 10:01 remaining.
“They were confident, they stepped up, and they both [Tabakman and Melendez] made their shots, they both made their layups and they both made some key free throws,” La-Force said.
Fordham cut that down to seven with 5:05 on the clock after a layup from Emily Tapio. Â The URI Rams continued to add to their advantage, though, with a layup from Tabakman and the final dozen points coming from the free-throw line. Â Rhode Island reached a lead of eighteen after a pair of free throws from Tabakman with 1:11 to go. Rhode Island converted 14 of 16 free throw attempts in the second half after only going 3-for-7 in the first half.
Tabakman finished the game with 22 points and seven rebounds while Melendez finished with 18 points and nine boards. Â Junior guard Symone Bullard also finished in double-figures with eleven points. Â Wilson finished with nine points, five assists and five steals.
Fordham was led by Samantha Clark, who came away with 16 points, and Missry who scored 12, all from beyond the arc. Â Tapio also contributed twelve points.
“It was a huge win for our program. Â Fordham obviously has been at the top of the league for a couple years and we’ve done a good job of beating teams that are below us or comparable to us in the conference, but we definitely want to send a message to the top of the league that we are a strong contender and we’re a different URI,” La-Force said.
Rhode Island will next face off against La Salle University on Thursday night in the first half of a two-game road trip. Â The Explorers are currently 12-13.