KINGSTON – A poor defensive effort by the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team led to 40 points in the paint for an undersized Duquesne University, and another loss Saturday afternoon, 78-71.
The Dukes (11-7, 2-2 Atlantic 10) used crisp passing from point guard T.J. McConnell to score at will against the Rams. McConnell almost finished with a triple-double, scoring 16 points, dishing out eight assists and grabbing eight rebounds in 36 minutes.
Rhody (3-15, 0-3 Atlantic 10) stayed within single digits for much of the second half, and only trailed by two, 41-39, at the break. However, this was solely due to Duquesne’s poor shooting from the line – The Dukes finished 19-for-33 from the line, letting the Rams stay in the game until the final minute.
Trailing by six with 57 seconds left, the Rams fouled Sean Johnson. He was 5-for-8 from the line at that point, but sank both free throws. Billy Baron answered with a sweeping layup, but McConnell hit a free throw to give the Dukes a three-possession lead.
With only about 30 seconds left, Baron missed a 3-point shot. Jerry Jones missed two more free throws for Duquesne, but Baron missed a contested layup, and the Rams elected not to foul down seven with 15 seconds remaining.
Although it was a disappointing finish for URI, there were four positive aspects:
- The continued development of freshman Jonathan Holton’s game. Following the game, he said he was making a conscious effort to get to the rim and to crash the offensive glass more often. It showed in his stat line, as he finished with a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. He also had two blocks and two steals.
- The acclimation of Andre Malone to basketball again. Following the past two home games, Malone said it was tough to get used to live basketball again, regardless of the exercises he did in practice. Malone seems to have finally shook off the rust though. In 26 minutes, he finished with 17 points on 50 percent shooting.
- Billy Baron continuing to press the issue on offense. While none of his stat lines have been especially pretty, Baron has definitely shown the feel for a good Division I basketball player. Saturday afternoon, he finished 5-for-12 from the field and finished with 14 points. Maybe more surprisingly, he continued to rebound very well for a guard, snagging five boards.
- Mike Powell struggled a bit against the quick guards of Duquesne, McConnell and Eric Evans. He was limited to nine points on 3-for-9 shooting, and turnover the ball over four times. However, he played 39 minutes, dished out a team-high six assists and somehow grabbed seven rebounds as well.
However, none of the preceding points matter much if the Rams don’t defend better. Despite shying away from the press much of the day, the Rams were still torched for 22 points on the fastbreak – a function of missing shots and not getting offensive rebounds when crashing the boards.
Duquesne finished 5-for-16 from the perimeter, but scarily for the Rams, every shot the Dukes took was an open look, much like the Rams’ previous home game against Richmond. If a couple shots fell, URI easily could have been down by 20.
URI is next in action 7 p.m. Wednesday against at Fordham (7-9, 0-3 Atlantic 10).