Fatts Russell and URI struggled in A-10 opener
By KEVIN WEHNER
Even stars have off-nights and that was certainly the case for Fatts Russell in a conference opening loss to Davidson (4-3, 1-0 A-10) as the Rhode Island Rams (3-5, 0-1 A-10) dropped a third-straight contest Friday night at the Ryan Center.
The senior scored just five points on 2-of-11 shooting, his lowest point total since Jan. 5, 2020 where he had just three vs. Richmond. He’s missed his last ten attempts from 3-point range as he battles through some nagging injuries.
“It’s definitely hindering… He’s got the heel, he rolled both of his ankles at Western Kentucky, preseason he had the hamstring,” said coach David Cox.
A 12-day break should pay dividends for the veteran leader of this Rams team to get healthy before conference play ramps up. Russell’s struggles were certainly evident but so was the lack of help from his partner Jeremy Sheppard who finished the game with zero points. The senior guard came into this game second on the team in scoring with 10.6 per contest.
In a matchup between predicted All-Atlantic-10 guards Russell and Davidson senior Kellen Grady it was his backcourt mate Carter Collins who shined with a game-high 22 points. The senior finished just one-point shy of his career-high.
URI took the early lead starting off 6-of-7 from the field. From there, the two conference foes traded blows for much of the first 20 minutes as the game remained close. The half ended with a perfectly executed set by the visitors as Hyunjung Lee swished a corner triple as the horn sounded to give the Wildcats a 32-28 lead at the break.
Despite inconsistent offensive execution from URI, Malik Martin was a bright spot with a career-high 20 points. The Charlotte transfer picked up the slack offensively contributing 14 first-half points, including three consecutive three-pointers in the early-going.
“He’s been very hard on himself… He’s a true winner, he’s a Martin,” Cox said in reference to Malik’s brother Hassdan who had a successful career as the Rams big man from 2013-17.
Allen Betrand made his Rhode Island debut with five minutes remaining in the first half. The former Towson guard was declared eligible this week when the NCAA announced a blanket waiver for all Division I transfers. He contributed eight points on 3-of-7 shooting in just 11 minutes in the debut.
Free-throw shooting continues to plague the Rams with a season-worst 37.9% from the charity stripe. “Our free throw shooting was a major disappointment… “Probably the catalyst to us losing this game,” Cox said. “I can’t shoot them for them… You can have them make a 100 a day when they get into the game they have to go up there confident and make free throws.”
The Rams had multiple sizable scoring droughts throughout the contest, but none more damaging then a 6:49 scoring drought midway through the second half allowed the Wildcats to balloon its lead to 13. Carter Collins buried a three-pointer after two offensive boards for Davidson’s largest margin of the game. Russell tried to bring the Rams back as he has many times before but the shots just weren’t falling.
Despite a 11-3 late second half run that cut the lead to as few as four, the Wildcats showed poise and discipline on the road. Key plays down the stretch including a second-chance three-pointer from Hyunjung Lee that brought the lead back to nine and put the game out of reach with 2:14 remaining.
URI will now enter a 12-day final exam and holiday break before its next scheduled contest at home vs. St. Bonaventure on Dec. 30 at 4:00 p.m.