Following their first 3-0 start to a season in three years, the University of Rhode Island’s men’s basketball team fell in a pair of matches against Northwestern University and Washington State University over the weekend.
The team traveled to Uncasville, CT to participate in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Wildcats opened up Saturday’s game with a 22-2 scoring run, after Rhody began the night shooting 1-18 with six turnovers. The Rams’ scoring drought stretched for almost nine minutes, until fourth-year Luis Kortright scored on a layup to make it 22-4 with 7:39 to play in the first half.
Third-year Zek Montgomery got in on the action with an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 22-7 with 7:15 to go.
“I think our start was really indicative of an inexperienced group having to adjust on the fly,” Rams Head Coach Archie Miller said postgame. “To our credit, I think Zek [Montgomery] did a really nice job in the first half. We fought back.”
The Rams continued to recover from the deficit with a 9-0 run, with three-pointers from Montgomery and first-year guard Cam Estevez. The run made the score 28-20 with three minutes to play in the first half.
The Rams continued on a 14-2 run to make the score 28-24, still in favor of the Wildcats. The Rams and Cats went back and forth to end the half, with NU leading 33-26 at the break. Montgomery led the way for Rhody with 10 points, helping them dig out of a 20-point hole to begin the game.
“Knowing I’ve been in that situation before, I’ve got to get my team ready and prepared,” Montgomery said.
The Rams and Wildcats traded points throughout the second half, as NU led 59-48 with 8:40 to play. Rhode Island’s fourth-year point guard Jaden House, who had been averaging over 21 points per game, was held to just six points, a major factor in the Rams deficit. Northwestern continued to keep Rhode Island at a manageable distance, leading 66-52 with 2:18 to play.
The Wildcats ran out the clock and defeated the Rams 72-61, to advance to the championship on Sunday, which sent the Rams to the third-place consolation game against Washington State University.
Sunday’s game began with high scoring from the two teams, with URI leading 11-10 at the first media timeout. The timeout came with 15:29 to play in the half, as Montgomery once again topped the Rams with seven points.
The teams continued to battle as the half went on, with WSU leading 15-13 at the next timeout. Following the short break, the Cougars started a 6-0 run, forcing the Rams to use a timeout of their own, trailing 27-18 with 7:13 remaining in the half. First-year David Fuchs struggled with ball security to begin the game with four turnovers in the first 13 minutes, a contributor to the Rams offensive woes.
An almost five-minute stretch ensued before the next timeout, where WSU led by 10 at the most until fourth-year guard Luis Kortright made back-to-back buckets for the Rams. The baskets cut the lead to 34-28 with 2:15 to play in the half. Almost instantly following the halt in play, Kortright made two more layups, forcing the Cougars to use a timeout of their own. The buckets cut the deficit to two, trailing 34-32 with 1:35 to play.
The Cougars went on a quick 5-0 run following their timeout, making the lead 39-32 at the halftime break. The Rams had 10 turnovers in the first half, while WSU had only three, a key player in the Rams’ loss.
The Rams started the half outscoring WSU 9-8 in the first four and a half minutes, as Kortright continued his strong performance with 13 points and five rebounds. With 15:42 to play the Cougars still led the Rams, 47-41.
Rhode Island continued to stick around with the Cougars, as Montgomery led the way for the Rams with 15 points. After eight minutes had gone by in the half, Washington State led 52-47 after a two-minute scoring drought.
As time winded down the Rams could not find the basket, not scoring a field goal for over four minutes, starting with 12 minutes to play. The drought helped WSU extend their lead back to 10, 59-49 with 7:59 to play.
The field goal drought continued for another four minutes, as the Cougars continued to pour it on. With 4:06 to play, Washington State’s fifth-year forward Issac Jones slammed home a dunk to make the lead 68-51.
WSU killed the clock and defeated the Rams 78-57, outscoring Rhody 39-25 in the second half. Rhode Island fell to 3-2, dropping both matches in Uncasville, while WSU improved to 3-1. URI returned home to deliver a bounce-back 97-59 blow to Division III Johnson and Wales University on Wednesday, and are set to face Yale in their return to Division I competition on Sunday.
Tip-off from the Ryan Center is set for 4 p.m. on ESPN+.