Tuesday was a night that will be written in history books titled Rhode Island Men's Basketball. But in Washington D.C. Sunday, the Rams wrote a completely different narrative. "A gut-wrenching loss" as Head Coach David Cox put it.
In their previous game, the Rhode Island Rams proved themselves to be a second-half team, taking a double-overtime victory over the Dayton Flyers after being down 18 at the half. Sunday's outcome on the home court of the George Washington Colonials was just the opposite. The Rams fell 78-70 handing a win to a team who took hadn't seen the court since January 17 due to a pause threatened by COVID-19.
The first half in regulation was off to a sloppy start. In the first nine minutes Rhode Island already had four turnovers under their name. They finished the game with ten but it seemed to be drawing their opponent to the free-throw line that costed them this loss.
"The first eight minutes of the game was, I thought, a lackluster performance defensively from us," Cox said.
The Colonials sparked an 8-2 run right off the tip and held their lead up until the time clock read 5:34 remaining in the first half. That's when the senior celebrity himself, Fatts Russell, hit a shot in three-point territory off a turnover to push the lead over to Rhode Island by one 26-25. However, as the halftime buzzer sounded Jamison Battle brought the lead back to the Colonials 37-35.
Out of the locker room, the Rams established a 12-0 run in response to James Bishop's jumper that opened the second half. In the first two minutes, Russell tied his season high of eight assists and with 16:41 left, he tied his career high of ten. Russell finished the game one tip off the glass away from a triple double, finishing with 14 points, nine boards, and ten assists.
The Colonials last game prior to Sunday's matchup against the Rams resulted in a loss against Dayton. For a team that hasn't seen the floor in over a month, they executed a stellar offensive performance with James Bishop and Battle combining for 54 points, each with 28 and 26 respectively.
"That final three and a half finishing stretch did us in," Cox said. "Both Bishop and Battle played their tails off today, not unexpectedly though. We knew coming to the game how talented they were, they were just really tough to contain."
The Rams held their lead for a solid eight minutes straight until Noel Brown knotted the score 68-68 with just under four minutes to go. In the midst of an 15-2 run for the Colonials, Battle found himself at the stripe on back-to-back occasions, making 2-of-2 both times, solidifying a seven-point lead.
Rhode Island was unable to battle back from that run, giving away a win to George Washington - their first win since February 3.
The Atlantic-10 Conference announced this last Thursday that the men's conference championship tournament will be moved up a week earlier, just as a safety net for any unforeseen COVID-19 conflicts that may arise. The two arenas in Richmond will still co-host a handful of games, however, the final will be held at the University of Dayton.
The Rams last scheduled game before tournament play is February 27 at Duquesne. The time of tip is yet to be determined.