Rhody comeback foiled in final seconds in loss at UMass
Makhel Mitchell poured in 22 points but URI at UMass fell in final seconds
By KEVIN McNAMARA
An epic comeback ended in a frustrating defeat Wednesday night for the Rhode Island Rams.
After shaking out of a 15-point hole over the final 10 minutes of regulation, Rhody forced overtime. The Rams kept piling up critical plays deep into the extra session but Antwan Walker missed a point-blank layup at the buzzer that allowed UMass to escape with a thrilling 80-78 victory.
“Tough loss, hard-fought loss,” said coach David Cox. “We showed some fight, some toughness, some resiliency.”
Yet that wasn’t enough, as the Rams ended the game with a critical Jeremy Sheppard turnover and the missed layup on their final two possessions. Rhody fell to 7-7 overall and 3-4 in the Atlantic 10.
Makhel Mitchell led the Rams with his best game yet, a 23-point, six rebound effort. Allen Betrand (11 points) was the clutch player late, while UMass did an excellent job keeping Fatts Russell (12 points, 3-of-13 FG) in check. Rhody’s season-long turnover woes continued with 20 miscues, and as Cox admitted “we’re having difficulty just passing the ball in general.”
Freshman Ronnie DeGray led UMass (5-3, 4-1) with 21 points. Tre Mitchell (16 points) and Carl Pierre (15) also came through nicely.
With a little over nine minutes remaining at the Mullins Center, URI appeared dead and buried. The Minutemen were hitting shots, playing with bounce and flashing a zone defense that stymied Rhode Island. The home team appeared in control with a comfortable 62-47 lead.
Then Rhody finally arrived.
Led by some aggressive inside play by Makhel Mitchell and a pesky zone defense that shut down the Minutemen, the Rams turned on the jets and put together an 11-0 run that changed the game. In a few minutes the Rams had sliced the deficit to 62-58 and UMass big man Trey Mitchell was glued to the bench with four fouls.
Down just 66-64, Rhody took a step back and UMass went up 70-64 with 1:48 left but the Rams made another push. A D.J. Johnson 3-pointer made it 70-67 and then Betrand rebounded a missed free throw and scored to make it 70-69 with 70 seconds left.
UMass ran good offense and DeGray scored inside but Betrand answered, this time with a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game at 72-72 with 14.5 seconds left.
UMass took a timeout with nine seconds on the clock and went for the win with Noah Fernandes missing a 3-pointer. Tre Mitchell tipped up the rebound but it would not fall at the buzzer.
So after outscoring UMass 25-10 to close the half, the Rams went cold at the start of overtime. Makhel Mitchell missed a free throw with 2:43 on the clock but his fortunate tip-in two plays later gave URI the first points of overtime with two minutes left.
DeGray drained a clutch 3-pointer for UMass’ first hoop of the O.T. but Russell tied it at 75 after making one of two free throws. Tre Mitchell gave UMass the lead again with a post move with 1:11 left but Rhody answered with D.J. Johnson nailing his third 3-pointer with 42 seconds left for a 78-77 lead.
Tre Mitchell went to the line with 25 seconds left and made two for a 79-78 lead but that gave Rhody a final chance after a timeout with 20 seconds on the clock but Sheppard bobbled the ball on a drive and lost the ball.
Pierre made just one of two to keep the door open for the Rams. Russell burst up the right sideline, looked to get off a shot but slid a nice pass to an open Walker but he missed a layup at the buzzer.