Jeremy Sheppard shoots over St. Joseph’s Dahmir Bishop and Taylor Funk in Wednesday’s win against Saint Joseph’s. PHOTO CREDIT: gorhody.com

The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team bounced back Wednesday night and picked up their first conference win of the season in a 75-64 victory against Saint Joseph’s University.

The Rams pulled away late thanks to a stepback three over St. Joseph’s Jordan Hall to put them up 67-60 with 2:18 to play.

“I saw the big man leave me for a second time––I thought he was crazy for that,” Sheppard said. “Got to take that.”

URI remains undefeated at home this season (7-0) and the win makes it six in a row against the Hawks. 

Both teams put on shooting displays in the first half with Rhode Island shooting 51 percent from the field and the visitors shooting slightly better at 54 percent. The advantage shooting didn’t translate into a lead at the half for the Hawks. With the game tied at 33 with 4:00 to play in the first half, the Rams put together a 10-4 run to close the half with a 43-37 lead.  

St. Joseph’s kept the game interesting for the majority of the second half despite shooting 4-for-22 in the final 15:56 of the game. Jalen Carey triple-ended a nearly six-minute drought where the two teams went without hitting a field goal to put the Rams up 60-57. The Hawks had a chance to bring it to a one-point game with 6:46 to play, but guard Jack Forrest missed the second of two free throws. A few possessions later, Sheppard knocked down the eventual dagger. 

“The game of basketball is a game of ebbs and flows,” David Cox, Rhode Island men’s basketball coach, said. “Just because you score 40 in the first half doesn’t mean you are going to score 100 for the game. Teams make adjustments. Their big adjustment was to get their three-quarter court press to slow us down and break our rhythm, but what I am really proud about is how we stayed focused on the defensive end for 40 minutes today. That’s why we prevailed.” 

For the second straight home game, all Rams who saw the floor contributed to the score. Mahkel Mitchell led the way with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Sheppard added 13 points and Mahki Mitchell was the final Ram in double figures with 12. 

Malik Martin also added valuable contributions off the bench, taking a page out of his brother’s book and nearly recording a double-double with nine points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Cox emphasized how important his effort on the glass was for the team throughout the game. 

“He’s a Martin which means that he’s a warrior and he plays to win,” Cox said. “Those were huge for us. He led us with a +17. A kid like that is a winner––you got to keep him on the floor and he didn’t make it hard for me at all tonight.”

Up next, the Rams head on the road for a Saturday afternoon contest against the UMass Minutemen, but with COVID-19 postponements continuing to plague the Atlantic 10, Cox is hoping to get to the game without any bad news. 

“I don’t want to get too far ahead,” Cox joked. “No jinxes here. I hope we can practice tomorrow and then next day and we’ll worry about Saturday, but it does feel good to get back [into a rhythm] and to be playing and I hope we can continue to do this.” 

Tip off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on the USA Network.