URI Upsets First Place Davidson, Snaps Six Game Losing Streak
Rhode Island combined stifling defense with an outstanding performance from the free-throw line to knock off first-place Davidson Saturday afternoon at the Ryan Center. The Wildcats – who have been receiving votes in the Associate Press Top-25 – had won 19 of their last 20 games, while Rhody was on a six-game slide.
The Rams’ backcourt held Davidson well below their season averages in both scoring, field goal percentage and three-point shooting. The Wildcats entered the game with the Atlantic 10’s best field goal percentage (49.2), 3-point field goal percentage (39.3) and scoring average (76.9 points), but Rhody held Davidson to just 65 points, 38.1 percent from the field (24-63) and 25.0 percent from long range (7-28).
The Rams (14-10, 4-7 A-10) were all business from the start, setting the tone early on with a dominant first half. After a Makhel Mitchell jumper tied the score at 7-7, URI used a 14-2 run to pull ahead 21-9. During that push, Mitchell scored six additional points for Rhode Island while Jeremy Sheppard and Antwan Walker both connected from long range.
Jalen Carey also got in on the 3-ball action, sinking one from the perimeter with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half. After an empty possession for the Wildcats, Walker set Makhi Mitchell up with a fastbreak dunk that gave Rhody its largest lead of the period at 30-16.
Davidson (20-4, 10-2 A-10) responded with a 9-0 run to pull within five (30-25) – a margin which stood as the half later came to a close with Rhody up 40-35.
URI pushed its advantage back to eight in the second half, holding the Wildcats to just three makes on their first 15 attempts from the field. With Rhode Island leading 51-43, Davidson outscored the Rams 10-4 over the next four minutes to make it a one-possession game at 55-53.
Another trey by Sheppard however, followed by a Makhi Mitchell basket, gave URI a 60-55 cushion with 3:14 remaining. From there, Rhode Island did the rest of its damage at the foul line as Makhi Mitchell, Ishmael Leggett, Malik Martin and Sheppard combined to hit 12-of-14 down the stretch to finish the game on top 72-65.
Inside the Box
Collectively, Rhode Island – which has been plagued by lackluster free-throw shooting throughout Atlantic 10 play – combined to hit 19-of-23 attempts from the foul line. The 82.6-percent showing was the Rams’ best performance from the charity stripe since also going 19-23 at Milwaukee on Dec. 12.
Jeremy Sheppard returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in each of Rhody’s last two games. He finished with 23 points – his 12th time this season putting up double figures and his third time scoring 20+.
Sheppard was 7-of-11 from the floor and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Three of his seven field goals were 3-pointers. He also added three rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Makhi Mitchell posted his sixth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He also had two blocks and two assists.
Makhel Mitchell was the third Ram to score in double-figures, finishing with 11 points, seven rebounds and one block.
Ishmael Leggett scored six points – all of which came on a 6-for-6 day at the charity stripe. He also grabbed five rebounds, dished out two assists and blocked one shot.
Antwan Walker recorded seven points, seven rebounds, five assists and one block. The five assists match his career high, which he ironically set the last time URI faced Davidson (Jan. 8, 2022).
The Rams outrebounded the Wildcats 46-28 and had a 13-4 advantage in bench scoring.
Rhody also outscored Davidson in the paint, 28-18, and had a 15-6 edge in fastbreak points – despite Davidson only committing four turnovers.
Rhode Island is back in action on Monday night when it hosts Dayton at 9 p.m. The game – which was originally scheduled for Dec. 30, but postponed due to Rhody being in COVID protocols – will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.