In heartbreaking fashion, the Rams dropped their second home game of the year to the Davidson Wildcats in the final seconds, 60-59, and fell to 11-4 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, locking them in a four-way tie for first place.
The Davidson win tied the Wildcats with Rhode Island at the top of the conference with Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton. VCU lost in double overtime at the hands of Richmond, and Dayton won over George Mason. URI’s overall record is 19-7.
In the first half of the contest, Davidson’s potent offense forced Rhode Island into playing catch up early. Thanks to strong field goal shooting for the Wildcats and the Rams’ 0-for-8 tally from behind the arc, Davidson was able to take a seven-point lead into the break, though they led by double digits for much of the half.
“I think we put so much focus this week on taking away the three-point line, that we got our principles a little bit off the ball,” Rams head coach Dan Hurley said. “We were allowing them to get beneath us, so we made some adjustments. Plus for the first time you see that style of offense, it’s a little bit of a wakeup call.”
URI’s defense came alive in the second half and the Rams held the Wildcats to 10 points for the first 12:38. Sophomore Hassan Martin once again showed off his athleticism with 17 points and 16 rebounds, nine of which were on the offensive glass. Fellow classman E.C. Matthews led all Rhode Island scorers with 16, including seven free throws.
“I think we fought really well in the second half and we played really good defense, but we just didn’t come out with the win,” Martin said. “I appreciate the effort that my teammates gave us, but it happens.”
The final series was eerily similar to the one URI lost to St. Joseph’s on exactly two weeks prior. After two missed free throws from Martin, a last-ditch effort from Davidson led to a Jack Gibbs 3-pointer in the final seconds that put the Wildcats up for good. Rhode Island would unsuccessfully attempt to regain the lead in the last 10 seconds. Gibbs’ three was just the third to connect out of 19 attempts for the best 3-point shooting team in the A-10.
Coach Hurley said that, despite the loss, he is still proud of his team and how well they’ve played, though, free throws are still a problem and the reason for the loss. The A10’s preseason polls had URI finishing in sixth place. With only three games left in the regular season, the Rams will have a tough task ahead to separate from the rest of the conference.
“We played a little too fast, we wanted it too bad today offensively,” he said. “It’s a shame because we did everything else right.”
Rhode Island will be facing La Salle on the road Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Rams beat the Explorers earlier in the campaign at the Thomas M. Ryan Center, 59-47.