The University of Rhode Island secured their second Atlantic 10 win after an 85-77 overtime victory against the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. The Rams were led by senior guard Fatts Russell, who scored 20 points on 5-14 shooting. Russell’s largest contribution came in the final seconds of regulation when Saint Joe’s Myles Douglas fouled Russell on a three point attempt with 0:04 left on the clock.
The veteran point guard was able to sink all three free throws to tie the game and ultimately send it into overtime. Once in overtime, the Rams had no problem securing the win against a tired and inexperienced Hawks team. Rhode Island outscored Saint Joe’s 15-7 in overtime and escaped with the win.
The Fundamentals of Free Throws
If there was one theme to pick out from this game, it is the importance of fundamentally sound free throw shooting. So far this season, Saint Joe’s has averaged a respectable 74% from the free throw line. However, that was not the case today. Saint Joe’s shot 54% on their 11 free throw attempts. In comparison, Rhode Island shot a solid 79% from the line off of 19 attempts. Rhode Island also sank the most important free throws of the game which came in the final seconds of regulation.
Saint Joe’s did many things right today. They played great defense and were able to find scoring contributors without Ryan Daly or Greg Foster Jr. However, missing free throws created an undue burden on the Hawks.
Saint Joe’s missed four foul shot attempts within the final four minutes of the game. While it wasn’t the sole reason they lost, it was a detriment to their efforts. A young team like Saint Joe’s cannot afford to leave points on the free throw line like they did. These missed free throws could’ve helped alleviate the pressure for a road team who was looking to secure their first win. Not to mention that Saint Joe’s has struggled this season to manufacture half court scoring opportunities.
Rhode Island is another team in the A10 who looks to be finding their rhythm early into conference play. While the Rams did lose their first A10 game against Davidson, Rhode Island bounced back with wins against Saint Bonaventure and Saint Joe’s. While this latest win against Saint Joe’s was a little too close for comfort, Rams fans should be relieved to see a senior leader like Fatts Russell step up and secure the win when it mattered most.
Saint Joe’s Finally Showed Improvement
Saint Joseph’s is a team that can’t catch a break. While it isn’t ideal that the refs decided to award a foul call on the final shot of the game, there was clearly some form of contact by Douglas on that final shot. I understand why Saint Joe’s fans were frustrated when that happened, but it is over and there is no changing the past.
However, there are a few things Saint Joe’s is starting to improve on. First, this team is slowly learning how to cut to the rim after setting a screen. With a minute left in regulation, Taylor Funk set a hard screen and rolled to the basket for an easy “and one”. This type of scoring is what Saint Joe’s needs to focus on if they want to diversify their scoring portfolio. If they can increase interior scoring, it will only help create more space for their three point shooters.
The second improvement was on defense. This team was locked in on the defensive end for the final two minutes of regulation. For a team with relatively no size inside, it was awesome to see them close out shooters and block out rebounds the way they did. Fans who actually care about the program’s progress will look past an 0-7 record and see that there was tangible improvement tonight, even if it didn’t result in a win.
URI’s next coming will be against Richmond while Saint Joe’s is scheduled to face Saint Bonaventure’s. Both games are scheduled for January 6th.