Road struggles continue as men’s basketball drops fourth straight game

Despite loss at George Mason, Jalen Carey led the team with a season-high 21 points. PHOTO CREDIT:

The 2022-23 campaign for the University of Rhode Island Men’s Basketball team has been a shaky one. 

Between offensive inconsistencies and botched leads, the Rams have struggled to create any trace of positive momentum so far this season, and the trend continued this past week against George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Starting on Saturday, the Rams traveled to Fairfax, Virginia to take on the George Mason Patriots. The game started out in Rhode Island’s favor, as the Rams sprinted out to an 8-3 lead. URI third-year Jalen Carey collected six of the first eight Rhody points.

Rhode Island continued to play well, even extending their lead to double digits halfway through the first half with two free throws from Brandon Weston. However, that is where Rhody’s dominance climaxed. 

A 22-9 George Mason run to close out the half evaporated URI’s lead and left them flatfooted going into halftime. Colonials Josh Oduro and Davonte Gaines combined for 14 points on the run and were two of George Mason’s main contributors throughout the entirety of the game.

Even with nine points from second-year Brayon Freeman and eight from Carey, the Rams could not hold on to the lead going into halftime, as the Patriots led 36-33 after 20 minutes.

The second half was more of the same, with neither team making any spectacular efforts on either end, until George Mason’s Devon Cooper scored nine points in 93 seconds, propelling George Mason into a 53-42 lead.

Rhode Island’s defense then began to flatten out slightly, keeping the game at an even pace from there on out. Despite this, their offense could simply not do enough to erase the deficit, leading to a decisive George Mason win, 75-67.

For Rhode Island, the loss was highlighted by a 21 point performance from Jalen Carey, his highest tally in the points column since his first season at Syracuse when he scored 26 vs. the University of Connecticut in Nov. 2018. Freeman and second-year Alex Tchikou also contributed in the points department. Freeman had 11 and Tchikou had 10.

On George Mason’s side, the scoring was widespread. Oduro’s 27 points led the team while other scorers also reached double digits; Ronald Polite III (15), Davonte Gaines (15) and Cooper DeVon (11).

Following the game, Head Coach Archie Miller spoke on the team’s offensive performance in the loss.

“We just didn’t have the juice, I didn’t think, defensively to overcome our offense,” Miller said. “Our offense was very stagnant, we didn’t have the ability to get any easy baskets, we weren’t able to move the ball very freely in the second half.” 

The woes of blown leads continued on Wednesday night when the Rams of Rhode Island hosted the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University.

The game began in a back and forth battle, as Rhode Island took the 14-8 advantage at the halfway point of the first half. Multiple Rhody players chipped into the early lead, but Jalen Carey’s four points led the team in the opening 10 minutes.

The tug of war continued for the remainder of the half, as neither team was able to pull away. However, URI was able to grow their lead to nine points on two separate occasions, with Ishmael Leggett and Carey both doing the honors through free throws.

When the first 20 minutes were up, VCU had trimmed that nine point lead slightly down to six, as Rhode Island held a 30-24 lead going into halftime. Leggett’s 13 points led Rhody while VCU’s Brandon Johns Jr. held the lead for the visiting Rams with 10 points of his own.

The second half displayed another back and forth battle with Rhody winning a slight advantage. Rhode Island even garnered their largest lead of the day at 13 points off of a Malik Martin three pointer with 11 minutes remaining.

However, that is when the collapse began, with the lead slowly dwindling down little by little until the final five minutes when Rhode Island’s lead only remained at one, a 47-46 advantage.

The subsequent five minutes were chaotic ones. Seven lead changes, and two ties saw the game’s outcome come down to the final seconds. With four seconds left on the clock, Leggett converted on both of his free throws to give Rhode Island the lead 54-53 with four seconds left on the clock. However, VCU had the final say in this contest.

 Zeb Jackson made his way down the court in the dying seconds and pulled up for a long two point attempt that sank at the buzzer. The Ryan Center was silenced to a level that is only heard during the offseason.

After the game, Ishamel Leggett was disappointed with the result, despite his 21 point performance. 

“There’s a lot going through my head right now”, Leggett said. “It was a tough shot, we fought the whole game, and I’m proud of my guys.”

Sebastain Thomas, who was guarding Jackson on the final shot, also expressed his thoughts on the ending.

“Everything happened so fast”, Thomas said. “When Ish [Leggett] made the free throws, everything was exciting… but then four seconds later, the guy hit the game winning shot, so I’m really lost for words.”

The Rams will return to action this coming Saturday when they host UMass in their Hall of Fame Game. Tip-off will take place at 2 p.m.