Wednesday was ’90s night at the Thomas M. Ryan Center, where the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team lost to Fordham University 53- 43 as they now look toward the Atlantic 10 Championships with only five games remaining.
Rhode Island started off the first half of the game on a strong 7-2 run, but Fordham quickly responded with a 7-0 run of their own to take a 9-7 lead six minutes into the first half. The remainder of the half was a scrappy, back-and-forth effort from the two teams, one with nothing to lose and the other on the edge of desperation. There was poor shooting from both sides as they played to five ties and three lead changes. URI went into halftime shooting 9-of-30 from the field and 2-of-11 from 3-point range. Fordham was more efficient, shooting 44.4 percent from the floor, but canceled it out with nine turnovers. Fordham ended the first half going on a 4-0 run in the final minute to grab a 25-21 lead.
Senior forward Hassan Martin led his side in points for the first half with seven, on 3-of-7 shooting. Fellow senior front court mate Kuran Iverson also struggled to find his shooting form, going 1-of-7 for just two points. Fordham was led by guard Javontae Hawkins, who was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line, and 2-of-3 from the field for 10 points. Forward Chris Sengfelder was also off to a hot start from the field shooting 3-of-4 for eight points to go along with his team-high nine rebounds.
The highlight of the first half for URI was the return of junior guard Jarvis Garrett, who set foot on the Alex and Ani Court with 11 minutes remaining after missing the previous eight games due to a severe illness. Garrett scored his first points back on a corner 3-pointer assisted by Iverson, giving URI an 18-15 lead as the crowd erupted into a cheering frenzy.
Fordham entered the second half looking to build on their lead. URI fought back with Martin bulldozing his way in the low post to earn an opportunity for a three-point play, which he converted on the free throw line to bring URI back within three. The flow of the second half was similar to the first for URI, with the score being tied on six separate occasions before Fordham was able to pull away for good in the last two minutes.
URI finished the game shooting an uncommonly poor 2-of-20 from beyond the arc for 10 percent on the night, and 17-of-56 from the field for just over 30 percent compared to Fordham’s almost equally abysmal 37 percent. Head coach Dan Hurley knew that his team’s weaknesses were due in large part to their inability to gain any consistency throughout the game.
“We are not good at buzzer beaters and we are not a good free throw shooting team and that reared its ugly head tonight, but we never show up the way we did today,” Hurley said. “I guess we were demoralized from the loss on Friday that would be my only explanation.”
URI was led by Martin’s 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks with no other URI player reaching double digits in scoring. Fordham was led by Hawkins’ 20 points and nine rebounds, along with Sengfelder’s double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds. Rhode Island’s final field goal was scored with 7:38 left to play, and that was indicative of their team’s inability to connect on shots from start to finish, even with their bench outscoring Fordham’s 13-3. Coach Hurley was beside himself following URI’s second straight conference loss on their home floor, but respected Fordham’s hustle.
“I mean listen that was our worst home loss and that is no disrespect to Fordham those guys they scrambled, played harder than we did, and it wasn’t a pretty game by any stretch,” Hurley said. “I don’t know how I allowed that type of performance from our team here to just happen. We were lethargic, we had no energy, we got out toughed, we looked like a team that wasn’t playing for anything.”
The men’s basketball team’s next game will be against George Mason University this Saturday at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia where they look to finish the last five games strong following a tough two-game skid.
“You have a 17-8 team I think, that has their fan base fired up about being 17-8 so we will see a hostile crowd on Saturday, and a team that is going in with a lot more momentum than us,” Hurley said. “We have got some soul searching to do in the last couple days before we board the plane.”