Men’s Basketball battles to statement wins in home stretch

URI capitalized on home court with two comeback wins

Men’s Basketball: Jalen Carey finishes with 18, matching his season high. PHOTO CREDIT: Aidan Cahill | Web Editor

After losing three games straight, it was immensely important for the Rhode Island Men’s Basketball team to get back into the win column against the Dayton Flyers on Wednesday night, a game that had historical relevance for Head Coach Archie Miller.

Miller was the Head Coach of Dayton from 2011-2017, so in his first game ever facing them, from an outsider’s view it would surely seem like the biggest game of his young career at URI. Miller disagreed.

“I really like their staff, and the administration,” Miller said. “I think I’ve talked enough about them, but I don’t know any of those guys. I don’t have any connection to those kids on the team, so playing them is about us, it’s about our guys.”

With his past not anywhere in his rearview mirror, it was all business for the Rams, who took an exciting roller coaster ride to a 75-70 finish, where they wound up on top.

The start for Rhode Island was not a bright one, after staying competitive for the first few minutes, the Flyers began to click together offensively which gave them a 22-11 lead halfway through the first half.

However, over the next eight minutes it appeared as a completely different game. A 17-1 run gave Rhode Island a 28-23 lead, 10 of those points coming from Ishmael Leggett. The lead stayed at five going into the half, with URI up 32-27.

Out of the half, it continued to be all Rhode Island, who opened with an 11-3 run to bring the lead to 43-30. However, two made free throws from Dayton’s Kobe Elvis incited a comeback attempt that brought the game to 44-40 with a DaRon Holmes II layup. 

Rhode Island did not waver through, showing the resiliency of a maturing team. The Rams crawled their way back to the biggest lead of the day with a huge dunk from Alex Tchikou that brought the score to 57-44.

Dayton never gave up though, even climbing back to a 73-70 deficit. Tchikou however, put the nails in the coffin with two last second free throws securing the Rams with a 75-70 win. 

Leggett finished with 25 points, but he struggled from three point territory going 0-6 on the night. Despite the adversity, Leggett balanced out the lackluster three ball with a flawless slate from the free throw line going 11-11. Leggett attributed his resiliency to just remembering how to do the simple things.

“It’s just reps, just reps”, Leggett repeated. “Each and every day, getting those free throw reps in, getting those threes, those twos, just all repetition,” he added.

Leggett also nodded to the simplicity of his flawless performance.

“At the end of the day it’s a free throw, so you do it every day, why not just check that box out there and get it done,” Leggett said.

However, even with a great win, the Rams still needed to create a pattern of consistency, starting with their hosting of La Salle on Saturday.

The contest started all La Salle, sprinting out to a five point lead. However, Rhode Island did not fall far behind, as a few minutes later an and-one play from Sebastain Thomas tied the game at 8-8.

The remainder of the half saw the same ordeal, a back and forth battle that saw La Salle with a definite advantage, leading 40-29 going into halftime.

La Salle’s Josh Nickelberry led the scoring for the Explorers in the first half, with almost all of his 13 points coming from four made three pointers. LaSalle made nine as a team in the first half.

Rhode Island had no scorers in double digits, but Jalen Carey led the team with eight points. Leggett sat behind him with six points.

The start of the second half saw the same trend, as LaSalle’s Hassan Drame sank a three pointer to open up the second half scoring.

That 14 point lead saw itself last halfway through the second half, as the Explorers led 60-46 at the ten minute mark. 

However, Rhode Island proceeded to go on a massive 25-4 run over the next eight minutes, with Leggett dropping 12 points in that time frame, making the score 65-64 in favor of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island hung on to finish out the game, winning 72-70.

Leggett tallied 20 points, his fifth 20+ point contest of the season. Jalen Carey finished behind him with 18, matching a season high that he also set against LaSalle on Jan. 7.

Rhode Island now has three straight road contests ahead of them, including contests against St. Louis and George Mason.