In the wake of a frustrating loss to George Washington, the Rams are on to Duquesne. Photo by Greg Clark.
When the University of Rhode Island’s Men Basketball team travels to Richmond next week for the Atlantic 10 tournament, their trip will be short-lived if they play like they did in the closing stages of their most recent trip to Virginia.
Rhody dropped a heartbreaker to George Washington on Sunday in a 78-70 loss after having multiple big leads throughout. The Colonials ended the game on an 15-2 run in the last five minutes of the game, turning a five-point deficit into a comfortable eight-point win. The lack of late-game execution made the loss more painful to swallow.
“Gut-wrenching loss,” said Head Coach David Cox postgame. “The last couple of wars they executed really well on the offensive end. We got the shots we wanted at the time and just didn’t finish. The last three minutes really did us in.”
Senior Fatts Russell played one of the best games of his storied career for Rhode Island, scoring 14 points, handing out 10 assists and pulling down nine rebounds. He was one rebound away from only the second triple-double in school history, following Delroy James in 2011. The point guard looked the healthiest he has all year from the eye-test, with Coach Cox acknowledging postgame the team’s time off has led to improvement.
“I think the mini-break we had prior to Dayton helped him, and I think the mini-break we will have now will help him again,” he said. “He sees the end coming, and he’s trying to do all he can to put his team in position to be successful.”
Sunday’s result likely means Rhody will have a sub-.500 record for the first time under Cox. Even with a win vs. Duquesne in the season finale on Saturday, URI will have to run the table in the A-10 tournament next month to avoid having a losing record for the first time since the 2013-14 season. With just a 7-9 record in conference play, the Rams are also in danger of having to play in the first round of the conference tournament, forcing the team to have to win four games in four days before the tournament final is held in Dayton, Ohio one week later.
Freshman Ishmael Leggett continued his stellar play since being inserted into the starting lineup earlier this month for Rhody. He dropped 16 points, and looked comfortable in the three-point shooting game with six attempts. The freshman was one of four Rams who finished the game in double-figures alongside Russell, Jeremy Sheppard and Makhel Mitchell.
On the flip side, George Washingon deserves credit for gutting out a win in what has been an unfortunate season for the program. The Colonials played their first game on Sunday in 35 days, coming into the matchup having played only five conference games all year.
“I expected them to be really fresh,” Cox said of the opposing team. “A lot of unknowns obviously with who was going to be playing for them, and we hadn’t seen them play games for months, so we didn’t know what they were going to run.”
GW was anchored by their backcourt in James Bishop and Jamison Battle. The two combined for 54 points, going an efficient 18-29 from the field. Ricky Lido Jr. had a double-double for the home side, and all three players were on the floor for at least 36 minutes of the first game back from their extended lay-off.
Rhode Island closes out the regular season on this weekend vs. Duquesne, the second time this season the Rams will travel to Pittsburgh. Unlike in the first meeting, the two teams will square off in the newly refurbished UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. Rhody will look to avenge their loss earlier in the season vs. the Dukes at 7 p.m on Saturday.