Fatts Russell flies to hoop in win over Dayton (Photo by Alan Hubbard)
By KEVIN WEHNER
That’s the one word that Fatts Russell epitomized in his final game inside the Ryan Center. As the horn sounded in this double-overtime thriller against Atlantic 10 rival Dayton, the senior star made sure to kiss the interlocking Rhode Island logo at center court.
He said he did so not just in celebration of a win, but also the culmination of all he’s accomplished for this program.
“I knew this was going to be the last time I was in a competitive game in the Ryan Center,” Russell said, “and we didn’t want to go out with an L. This program, this school, Coach (David) Cox, everybody means so much to me. I just felt like I had to give my heart out there.”
Russell and his Rhode Island teammates showed an immense amount of heart in its 91-89 victory over Dayton. The win snapped a four-game skid and didn’t come easily. Rhody (10-12, 7-8) trailed by 18 with 10:23 remaining in the game but was able to climb all the way back and force the overtime.
“When we were down 18, I looked up to my family and said “I’m not going out like this,” Russell said. He would finish with a team-high 20 points and seven assists while battling through nagging injuries.
Rhode Island put together an 8-0 run to get back into the game, headed by one of five made 3-pointers from freshman Ishmael Leggett, finished with a career-high 18 points. Russell was unable to knock down a contested 3-pointer at the end of regulation with the score tied at 69, but he continued to push his team through the extra ten minutes and grab a much needed win.
“He’s a warrior, the ultimate warrior, the ultimate competitor,” URI coach David Cox said of the senior guard.
URI sophomore Makhel Mitchell, who was shooting just 49 percent from the foul line, made two huge freebies that extended the lead to three with 30 seconds left. Dayton responded with a lay-up and Russell went 1-for-2 from the line giving the Flyers the opportunity to tie or win with 3.8 seconds remaining. However the inbound pass wasn’t controlled by Mutsapha Amzil and when it fell into the hands of the defending Malik Martin, the clock finally expired.
As it did, Russell knelt at center court and showed his appreciation for the program with a kiss as URI players like former teammate Cyril Langevine have done before him.
Despite the NCAA granting players with another year of eligibility, Russell says his career will be finished at the conclusion of this season. “I feel like this is the last time for me at the University of Rhode Island” Russell said.
This season isn’t over yet, but Russell has already etched his name as one of the greats in program history. He became the all-time leader in steals with four in this game. He’s recorded over 1,500 points, won an Atlantic-10 regular season title and earned a victory in the NCAA tournament.
“I found a second home here in Kingston, Rhode Island,” Russell said.
His accomplishments will remain engrained inside the walls of the Ryan
Center for years to come, or as Cox said “I don’t think any true Rhode Island basketball fans will forget Fatts Russell.”