The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team beat the University of Massachusetts Minutemen 70-62 at the Mullins Center in Amherst Tuesday night.
The game marked the 150th time the Rams and Minutemen have squared off in the programs’ collective histories.
URI was coming off their biggest road win of the season as they took down the Davidson Wildcats on Friday night in North Carolina. The Mullins Center had not been a friendly environment for the Rams over the past few seasons. Rams head coach Dan Hurley had never won in Amherst and the program itself had not won there since 2009.
Rhode Island was looking to sweep the regular season series against the Minutemen for the first time since 2003. URI edged out UMASS 79-77 on Jan. 15 at the Ryan Center.
For the Rams to secure the rare feat, they would have to overcome the absence of starting point guard Jarvis Garrett. Garrett has missed the past seven games with an undisclosed illness. Freshman guard, Jeff Dowtin has become the interim starter, and has impressed while filling in. He has received two A10 Rookie of the Week honors this season.
The Rams never trailed at any point of their victory over UMASS on Tuesday. UMASS had tied the game up twice. The first time coming with 5:53 left in the first half. UMASS’ leading scorer Donte Clark hit back-to-back free throws to tie the game at 19. The second time came just over two minutes later with 3:40 left in the first half when Clark hit a three to tie the game at 22 apiece.
Clark was the clear offensive presence for the Minutemen. He notched a game high 30 points, which tied his career high he had previously set against New Orleans in December of 2015.
Rhode Island would outscore Massachusetts 11-5 in the final 3:30 of the first half to give them a 33-27 advantage going into the break.
The Rams, however, would continue a trend of stifling all secondary offensive options, and enjoyed a dominant second half. The Rams biggest lead of the night came with 8:32 left to go in the game. Senior Kuran Iverson converted a layup and the foul to complete a three point play to make the score 58-44. The Rams would struggle from the free throw line as UMASS played the foul game during the final three minutes, but URI would clinch the win, 70-62.
Hurley was happy with his team’s performance. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for us,” Hurley said following the game. “Not just the injuries, but the juggling of the lineup. Different people starting, then guys coming back. I think we finally found a little bit of a rhythm by playing the same group of guys for s series of games.”
Iverson struggled against the Minutemen. He fouled out of the contest with just three points and three rebounds, but the Rams got a boost off the bench from sophomore Nicola Akele. Akele had 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Rhode Island had a diverse scoring effort, as the team-high was a 14-point effort from Jared Terrell. EC Matthews added 12 points in his 30 minutes of play, while senior Hassan Martin tallied three blocks on the night and 301 for his career, moving him into second place on the URI all-time blocks list, only behind Kenny Greene’s 328.
The back-to-back road wins are critical for a Rams team that has struggled in the visiting role in the past. The success will need to continue if URI is going to realize their postseason aspirations. However, the path does not get any easier for the Rams, with the Dayton Flyers coming to Kingston on Friday night, at 7 p.m. (ESPN2) for what could be the biggest matchup of the season.