Freshman guard Ishmael Leggett had six points off the bench at Wisconsin
It certainly was a tall order when the Rhode Island Rams signed up to go out to Madison, Wisc., and play the Wisconsin Badgers on three days’ notice. Once there, the Rams caught an eyeful.
The Badgers were coming off a 67-65 heartbreaker of a loss to state rival Marquette that knocked them out of the Top 10 but they’ll be back before long. Now ranked 13th in the country, the strong, veteran Big Ten squad jumped all over the Rams and held a 17-point advantage at the half, 33-16. Shooting guard Brad Davison (17 points) outscored the entire Rhode Island team at the break.
URI’s offense was clearly bothered by the big, physical Badger lineup as the Rams struggled from the field shooting only 26 percent and missing all eight three-point tries.
The Rams couldn’t get much going as star guard Fatts Russell (8 points, 3-of-14 shooting) struggled badly and Wisconsin (4-1) mounted a 53-31 lead. The lead was still a commanding 60-42 with 7:49 left when Rhody (3-3) finally made a push. The Rams had struggled from the foul line (15-of-25 for the game) but started getting there in bunches and the free points sparked a 12-2 run.
With 4:40 left, Jeremy Sheppard (team-high 13 points) canned a 3-pointer to make it 62-54 and the Badgers had to start sweating again. Aleem Ford hit the big shot to stop Rhody’s run as his 3-pointer pushed the lead back into double figures, 66-55.
“I’ll have to dig real deep into their box scores to find when (Russell) was held like that again,” said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard. “(D’Mitrik Trice) has guarded some really good guards. This isn’t his first lap around the track and I thought he was really terrific today. Thought we had him frustrated too.”
*URI Rhode Island had 11 first-half turnovers, helping Wisconsin to a 15-0 advantage in points off turnovers before the break. Both teams struggled offensively in the opening 20 minutes with the Rams shooting 25.9 percent (7-of-27), while Wisconsin was slightly better at 33.3 percent (10-of-30).
URI was just 3-of-13 from 3-point range. After going 0-for-8 in the first half, Rhode Island finally connected with 11:02 remaining on a trey from Sheppard.
*How time flies.
In the first-ever meeting between these teams, the Badgers rallied from a 46-36 deficit over the final 11 minutes of a come-from-behind 65-59 win over URI in a 1998 game played at the Providence Civic Center. The Rams were led by Lamar Odom. Despite giving up so much size and length, 6-3 defensive ace Mike Kelley frustrated the 6-10 Odom who had 10 points and more turnovers (5) than made baskets (3). In 1999, the Clippers chose Odom with the 4th overall pick in the NBA draft.
UP NEXT: Rhode Island will hit the road again for a game at Western Kentucky on Sunday, Dec. 13. Game time is set for Noon.