Rams fold late, lose at George Washington 78-70
Fatts Russell nearly posted a triple-double in URI loss at GW
By KEVIN McNAMARA
Who says you actually need to play games to stay fresh? Not the George Washington Colonials.
Playing in its first game in 35 days due to assorted Covid pause challenges and the lock down in the District of Columbia surrounding the Inauguration, GW rallied late and beat Rhode Island Sunday, 78-70.
A 15-2 rush to the finish line did the trick for the Colonials, a team that hadn’t won a game since way back on Jan. 3.
James Bishop led GW with 28 points while wing shooter Jamison Battle continually shook free and went off for 26. GW is now 4-9 on the season and played just its sixth (3-3) Atlantic 10 game of the season.
“We just didn’t finish,” said URI coach David Cox. “That final three and a half minute stretch did us in. Give GW a lot of credit. Both Bishop and Battle played their tails off today, not unexpectedly. They were just really tough to contain. We leave here with a very unfortunate loss.”
URI fell to 10-13 on the year and has one regular season game remaining. Fatts Russell led the Rams with 14 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds. Ish Leggett added 16 points and Makhel Mitchell put up 14 points and 8 rebounds.
The Rams seemed in control several times but could never keep Bishop and Battle in check. The two explosive sophomores sparked their team to 50 percent shooting and carried the home team to the win.
That lengthy hibernation did nothing to slow GW out of the gate. The home team ripped off to a 11-5 start on 5-of-6 shooting. URI finally arrived for the early (11:30 a.m.) game start and put together a 14-3 run for a 28-25 lead. Russell ran the offense with assorted excellent assists that led to easy hoops but Rhody could not hold the lead.
A last-second 3-pointer by Jamison Battle gave GW the lead at the break, 37-35. URI opened up some much-needed breathing room at the start of the second half with Makhel Mitchell and Ishmael Leggett sparking a 14-2 run for a 49-41 lead.
But this wasn’t a day for things to come easily.
George Washington’s sophomore point man Bishop and wing shooter Battle kept producing and the Colonials took the lead again, 52-51, with 12:29 left. Russell answered with four quick points and URI led 68-63 with 4:30 left.
But 3-pointers from Bishop and Battle jump-started a decisive 13-0 GW run. When Noel Brown snuck inside for a layup with 3:26 left, the game was deadlocked at 68-68. The Colonials kept cooking, the Rams kept missing (six straight in one key stretch) and before anyone knew it Rhody was cooked.
Cox called Russell “a soldier,” and commended his floor play, although the near triple-double wasn’t enough.
“He was sensational,” Cox said. “He played almost a perfect floor game. He came out and gave a tremendous effort. He just played the right way today. He didn’t force the issue.”
Rhody’s final regular season game before the A-10 tournament tips in Richmond on March 3 comes next Saturday at Duquesne. The two teams have already played once in Pittsburgh with the Dukes winning a nail-biter, 71-69. The A-10 office added this extra game to the schedule and gave Duquesne another home game because it has missed several home dates due to Covid pauses. URI will play a ninth road conference game against eight home games.
“It’s been tough. It’s probably been tough for the league office as well,” Cox said of the late scheduling decision. “To go back to Duquesne for a second time….hat’s tough sledding (for us) but it is what it is.”