Men’s basketball conclude season with first-round exit in Brooklyn, falling to La Salle

Abdou Samb (URI) battles with Sam Mennenga (Davidson) for a rebound in Rhody’s 68-54 senior night loss. PHOTO CREDIT: Eddie Melfi

The University of Rhode Island Men’s Basketball team’s game on Saturday against Davidson was more than just their regular season finale, it was their senior night.

Jalen Carey and Malik Martin were the two players honored pregame. Both played three years in Keaney Blue and left their mark on the program in the process.

Carey’s first two years of collegiate basketball saw him in orange, as a member of Syracuse. His time saw him as a role player, getting minutes off the bench but never breaking out statistically. When Carey came to Rhode Island he immediately made a jump as both a player and a leader. 

Throughout college he scored 565 points, with 475 of them coming as a Ram. Compiling that with 230 rebounds and 85 assists in his time at Rhode Island, Carey made his three years in Rhode Island count.

Martin also was not always a Ram, he spent two years at a different school further south at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Martin was a key player for the 49ers even from his freshman year, when he played over 31 minutes a game. However after 2019-20, Martin decided to come north to a school he was already familiar with.

Martin’s older brother Hassan was a Rhode Island Ram from 2013-2017, recording 1300 points and 786 rebounds in his time with the Rams. Malik followed in his footsteps at the end of his collegiate career, recording his 1,000th point in his final season. Martin tallied 1,112 points and 656 rebounds in his five-year athletic career.

At the end of the path, Martin looked back fondly in his time at Rhode Island.

“This school means a lot,” Martin said. “Not only to me but to my entire family…I’ve just been thinking the past few days about all the memories I’ve got, not only playing but I remember sitting in section 106 just watching all the battles my brother had.”

However, even with the pregame ceremonies, Rhode Island still had a game to play, hosting the Davidson Wildcats.

The game started slow, but in Rhode Island’s favor. Seven straight points from Martin to open up the game set up an Ishamel Leggett jumpshot to give Rhode Island a four point lead five minutes into the game. This would end up being their largest lead of the game, a 9-5 advantage.

Three minutes later, a Foster Loyer three pointer erased the deficit and gave the Wildcat’s the lead back for good at 11-9. However, that basket would be the only one for either side for the next five minutes. Both teams rode a wave of offensive miscues into halftime, as Davidson held a 20-18 lead after the first 20 minutes in Rhode Island’s lowest scoring half all year.

Davidson remained the better team out of the break, compiling a 9-2 run to open the second half. Loyer led the Wildcats in the second half, tallying 21 points in the final 13 minutes of the game, allowing Davidson to close out their season with a 68-54 win.

Loyer led Davidson with 33 points, while Rhode Island’s statsheet was topped by 14 points from Leggett.

Postgame, Head Coach Archie Miller was furious with the performance his team displayed in their last game at the Ryan Center this year. However, he remained optimistic that his squad could turn it around in the conference tournament.

“We’re going to go to Brooklyn and we’re going to prepare really hard to advance, that’s what you do in the conference tournament,” Miller said. “One win creates a little bit of momentum, you play into somebody the next day, and we’ll see how that goes.”

The Rams then traveled to the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn to take on La Salle on Tuesday.

Rhode Island had the lead early, holding a 9-7 lead going into the first media timeout. However, La Salle swiftly caught up in pace and took a lead of their own, as a 9-0 run gave them a 16-9 lead through the first nine minutes.

After that the two squads went back and forth, trading runs with neither able to pull away. Rhode Island failed to score more than two points in the final four and a half minutes of the half, giving La Salle a commanding 39-24 lead at halftime.

Rhode Island improved offensively in the second half, as a 9-0 run early erased some of the deficit, with La Salle holding a 43-35 lead with 17 minutes remaining in the half. However, a flipped 11-1 run for La Salle right after placed Rhode Island right back in the hole, as they trailed 54-38.

The two squads then went back and forth the rest of the way, with neither team able to score more than six unanswered points the rest of the game. La Salle ended up on top at the end of the full 40 minutes, as they escaped the first round with a 73-56 win, advancing to play #7 Duquesne on Wednesday.

After the game, Archie Miller addressed the media for the final time this season, stating that even though they lost, he was proud of the effort his squad put forth this season.

“I give our guys credit,” Miller said. They fought through a hard year, it’s not easy to go through a season when you’re not on top, and you’re not consistently winning; But they showed up, night in and night out everyday and I’m proud of them for that.”

The Rams now enter their second off-season under the reins of Archie Miller. Losing two senior guards serves as a hurdle, but incoming commits Connor Dubsky and Cam Estevez could fill holes in the rotation that are vacant.

All of the offseason talk will have to wait until the end of March when the college basketball season wraps up, but for Rhode Island fans, the season is over.