URI Pulls Away From VCU in Second Half
Rhode Island (6-6, 3-2 Atlantic 10) continued its recent success against VCU, using a big second-half surge to pick up an 83-68 road victory Saturday.
It was back-and-forth action in the opening half, which featured eight lead changes. The biggest lead for either side was five points by VCU (9-3, 2-1 A-10), twice. It led 30-25 following a Jamir Watkins 3-pointer, but Antwan Walker followed with a trey of his own. The teams traded baskets before Malik Martin was fouled while making a layup. He added the free throw to pull URI within one point.
An Allen Betrand 3-pointer gave Rhode Island a 36-34 lead before VCU tied the game with a pair of free throws. Rhody took the lead twice more in the final minute, first on a Martin baseline runner and again on a pair of Fatts Russell free throws. VCU responded each time, knotting the score at the break when Watkins hit a jumper at the buzzer to make the score 40-40.
Rhode Island opened the second half with an 8-2 run to take its biggest lead of the day, 48-42. Betrand and Jeremy Sheppard each converted hoop-and-harm drives to the basket, and Russell hit a pair of free throws in the spurt. VCU’s Bones Hyland hit back-to-back deep 3-point shots and then a pair of free throws to put VCU back in front, 50-48. Hyland had the first 10 points of the half for the hosts.
Intense defense from Rhode Island began to take over. Rhody held VCU without a field goal for more than six minutes from 13:20 until 6:57 remained. During that stretch, the Rams outscored VCU 17-3 to open a 71-56 lead.
From there, Rhode Island coasted, winning for the ninth time in 10 meetings between the schools.
Inside the Box Score
Rhode Island had its best shooting performance from the perimeter, hitting 57.1 percent (8-of-14) from the arc. Rhody was 5-of-7 from 3-point range in the first half.
Senior Jeremy Sheppard had career highs with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Senior Fatts Russell added 23 points and a career-high nine rebounds. He was 13-of-14 at the free throw line, his third game this season with 10 or more made free throws.
The last time URI had two players with 20 or more points in the same game was Jeff Dowtin (24) and Russell (20) in a win over Manhattan on Nov. 27, 2019.
Russell has 23 rebounds over his last three games.
Junior Allen Betrand made his first start with Rhode Island and provided a spark, scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
He is the 10th different Rhode Island player to score in double figures this season.
Freshman Ishmael Leggett scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds despite being limited to 11 minutes due to foul trouble.
Junior Malik Martin had five points, three rebounds and two steals while posting a plus-minus of +8 in 28 minutes.
While Rhode Island had 19 turnovers, it also forced VCU into 16 miscues. Rhody enjoyed a 21-12 advantage in points off turnovers.
Head coach David Cox improved to 5-1 against VCU in his career.
Rhode Island plays its third straight league road game when it travels to Massachusetts on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Game time is 7 p.m. on NESN.