Jeremy Sheppard drives past Cumberland’s Tyler Kolek Saturday. (Photo: Drew Adames)
By KEVIN McNAMARA
Now that’s the team that fans of the University of Rhode Island Rams are looking for.
It took a half but the Rams found their favorite gear over the final 20 minutes of a 80-60 win over George Mason Saturday at the Ryan Center. URI out-scored Mason 46-26, shooting 53 percent and limiting the visitors to 30 percent.
Antwan Walker led URI with 17 points and 9 rebounds. Fatts Russell had 18 points and 4 assists, while Makhel Mitchell chipped in 14 points and 10 rebounds. URI improves to 7-7 overall and 4-3 in conference play.
George Mason (6-6, 2-4) was led by Jordan Miller’s 22 points. Cumberland’s Tyler Kolek added 13 on 5-of-14 shooting.
“It’s coming together,” Russell said of his team. “It’s time to start getting this thing rolling.”
Mason shot the 3-ball well early, with Cumberland’s native Kolek throwing in two in the first half. Coach Dave Paulsen played his freshman guard 38 minutes and calls him invaluable. Kolek is averaging 10 points per game and his coach calls him “a gym rat and super competitive.”
“You’re never certain how quickly he’ll get there,” Paulsen said, “and he’s not there yet. He has a lot of room to improve, but you’re never sure if he can do it right away as a freshman.”
The Patriots 26-15 after a Kolek 3-pointer but that would be their largest lead. Rhody closed the final 8:43 on a 19-8 run with Russell scoring seven of his eight first half points.
URI shot 52 percent but had nine turnovers in a half that ended in a 34-34 tie.
URI came out quicker and more under control to start the second half. Russell and Walker set the tone as the active forward put in some nice work around the rim. Another Mason 3-pointer kept things close at 51-48 but that would be it for the visitors.
As Rhody continued to hang onto the ball and run its offense with efficiency, the Patriots faded.
Three-pointers by Russell and D.J. Johnson helped open a 64-54 lead. Another push that included treys by Russell and Jeremy Sheppard ended any suspense with a 75-58 lead with 2:33 to play.
Antwan Walker (17 points, 9 rebounds) led the Rams to a win over George Mason (Photo: Drew Adames)
Rhody has now alternated wins and losses for five straight games and, not surprisingly, stand at 7-7 overall. That trend needs to change if the team intends the threaten in the Atlantic 10, beginning Wednesday at Duquesne. Games against lighter weight teams George Washington and LaSalle follow and spell opportunity for the Rams.