Riding a three-game losing streak, wins became ever more important when the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team took on a two-game stretch against George Mason University and La Salle University this week.
Traveling to Fairfax, Virginia on Saturday, Rhode Island’s first task of the week would be taking down the Patriots of George Mason. GMU are a team who have played excellent at home this season, tallying a 10-1 record inside Eaglebank Arena going into their clash with the Rams.
The contest opened with heavy offensive production from third-year forward David Green, who posted eight of Rhode Island’s nine points in a 9-2 run to start the game.
The Rhody offense continued to roll onward through the primary portion of the first half. However, a 9-3 run from the Patriots dampened Rhody’s morale heading into the 10-minute mark.
George Mason continued on this trend, slowly but surely chopping down the Rams’ lead like a tall tree. The Patriots finally garnered their first lead of the game when fourth-year guard Darius Maddox drained a three-pointer from the right wing to conclude a 10-0 run, making the score 26-24 Patriots.
However, 15 seconds later, first-year guard Cam Estevez connected on a three-pointer of his own, bringing the advantage back Rhode Island’s way, 27-26.
The Patriots were able to pull ahead slightly at times, however it was Rhode Island controlling the lead for the majority of the remaining first half. Green sank a free throw for his 22nd point of the half with 40 seconds left, giving Rhody a 42-40 lead heading into the break.
The start of the second half was positive for the Rams, as a 7-2 run gave them an eight point lead after just 95 seconds. Following that run, a 12-5 response from George Mason gave the Patriots a lead they would not forfeit for the rest of the game.
Rhode Island battled until the end, but the advantage continued to grow for the home team. 14 made free throws and seven made three-pointers served as the perfect recipe for George Mason to close out the game with a 92-84 win.
The loss served as Rhode Island’s fourth straight, and the third game in that stretch in which they have surrendered over 90 points.
“The bottom line is really being able to guard the ball,” URI Head Coach Archie Miller said. “At some point, that’s been our biggest weakness… being able to defend quick guards and be able to keep the ball out of the paint.”
Miller commended his team for their play, however emphasized that the final stretch was the key part of the loss.
“I thought for the most part though we were there to win the game,” Miller said. “I thought we played really well, we had one tough stretch where they got a couple runouts, which led to a little bit of a cushion… But down the home stretch, [the] last seven minutes, six minutes, five minutes [we] couldn’t guard the ball.”
The Rams then traveled back home to host the La Salle Explorers on Wednesday Night.
La Salle, who knocked URI out of the Atlantic 10 tournament back in March 2023, were the targets in a revenge tour from the Rams on their home floor.
Instead, the payback had to wait while La Salle jumped out to a quick 11-3 lead in the first five minutes of the game.
Counteracting from the opening stretch, a 12-3 run from the Rams placed them right back into the contest when a three-pointer from Green gave URI their first lead of the game with 11:04 left in the first half.
A back-and-forth affair swallowed the rest of the first portion of play. Nonetheless, Rhode Island was able to pull away slightly towards the end of the half, walking into the break with a 36-29 lead.
La Salle’s start to the second half was one that shocked the home crowd. An 11-4 run heading into the first media timeout tied the two opponents at 40 points each.
The game stayed in close contention down to the final buzzer, with Rhody only able to amass a lead as much as seven and La Salle even holding a lead for 32 seconds. Despite the bumping of elbows, two made free throws from Green extended the Rams’ lead to just enough and allowed them to edge out the win, 71-69.
Rhode Island’s poor free throw shooting, ranking last in the conference, has been a struggle all season long. However, squeezing out a win on strictly free throws sparked joy in the Ryan Center, according to Green.
“Winning games always feels good,” Green said. “We know that [winning is] not easy to do, so we’re just going to keep trying to chip away and get better.”
The Rams are back at home on Saturday when they host Duquesne at 12:30 p.m. The game can be streamed on USA Network.