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Rams Outlast Bears 75-66

Friday, January 03, 2014


For the 1,229 people who braved winter storm Hercules and made their way to Brown's Pizzitola Sports Center Thursday night, they were treated to an entertaining college basketball game.  However, with URI leading by 20 points midway through the second half, it didn't appear as if that would be the case.

In the end, Rhode Island beat Brown 75-66, but how they got there was interesting.

The two teams went back and forth in the game's opening 20 minutes with the turning point in the first half coming at the 6:30 mark.  With Brown leading 20-18, Rhody's EC Mathews (21 pts, 5 reb) drained a 3-pointer and was fouled by Brown's Sean McGonagill (24 points).  Mathews converted the rare 4-point play by hitting his free throw for a 22-20 lead.  But it also forced Bears head coach Mike Martin to go to his bench.

With McGonagill sitting, URI increased its lead to 15 by halftime 43-28.

"I trust Sean," said Brown head coach Mike Martin after the game.  "At Niagara, he picked up his second foul late in the first half and I kept him in there and he picked up his third before halftime and I regretted it.  Tonight he picked up his second before halftime and I took him out and they extended their lead.  Hindsight's 20/20, but I guess they were both the wrong decisions."

To be fair, it was not necessarily McGongill going to the bench late in the first half that hurt the Bears, it was 13 first half turnovers, many of which led to easy URI baskets.

Brown did a better job of taking care of the basketball in the second half but couldn't cut into Rhode Island's double-digit lead.  By the 10:35 mark of the second half, a lay-up by Iffy Onyekaba (2 points) put the Rams up by 20 points at 62-42.

Left for dead, the Bears rallied behind some great three-point shooting by Norman Hobbie (13 points), Tavon Blackman (11 points) and McGonagill.  Between the three of them, they connected on five three's helping Brown go on a 23-5 run to make it 67-65 URI with 3:16 to play.

But the Rams kept their composure aided by a big offensive fould call on Steven Speith with just under a minute to play and the Bears down 4.

Xavier Munford (25 points) went 4-4 from the free throw line in the final minute while Mathews connected on both of his to seal the victory for URI.  

The win was Rhode Island's first road win of the year and lifts the Rams to (8-6) on the season while the loss drops Brown to (6-6).

Rhody is scheduled to fly out of TF Green Airport at 10am Friday to head to LSU where they play the Tigers on Saturday afternoon.  It is likely that their departure will be delayed until later Friday afternoon or evening due to the storm meaning the team would likely change their Friday schedule.  Instead of that early flight where they would practice later in the day at LSU tomorrow, they could practice at URI and fly to New Orleans later in the day.

Brown, which lost its 4th straight game, hosts the University of New Hampshire Tuesday night at 7pm.



-Asked after the game by the media if he were more disappointed that his team almost blew a 20-point lead or if he were more proud that his team found the resolve to hold Brown off and win the game, here is what URI head coach Dan Hurley had to say: "I not disappointed at all in this team.  I am only proud of what they have been able to accomplish.  We just matched our win total (8) from all of last year and we picked up a win on the road against a tough, physical team that is well-coached."

-Hurley also had high praise for Brown senior guard Sean McGonagill who received extra attention from the Rams defensively who were hedging hard on ball screens.  "He's a heck of a player and is putting together quite a career here," said Hurley.  "The fact that he was, what?, 50-percent, 9 of 18 shooting with all of the highly contested shots he had tells you a lot about this kid.  He's a good player."

-Mathews, Munford and the Rams said after the game that they were thrilled that the Bears decided to play mostly man-to-man defense Thursday night.  Rhody has faced a lot of zone defense and has struggled against it more often than not.

-Brown outrebounded Rhode Island 38-35.

-Brown head coach Mike Martin was not pleased with his team's inability to defend or take care of the basketball in the first half.  "We didn't take care of the basketball in our last game at Niagara (25 turnovers) and we didn't do a good job in the first half tonight which led to a lot of runouts for easy buckets.  But the reason we were able to get back into the game in the second half was because we started to defend.  We got a few stops which helped get us going."

-URI did not have sophomore big man Jordan Hare again Thursday night as they have not all season.  While there is no definitive word on whether or not Hare will return to the program, some believe he will not.  If Hare is not seen on campus at the start of the second semester, it is likely that there would be some sort of anouncement from the school on his status.


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