The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team started their season in Mohegan Sun Arena’s “Bubbleville” Wednesday night. The Rams put up a tough fight but fell 94-88 to the Sun Devils.
What started off as a 16-point deficit for the Rams quickly flipped to a seven-point game in favor of the Sun Devils going into the half. Contributing to this tremendous rally was guard Jeremy Sheppard, who had a 19-point team-high; not bad for his first game on the court in keaney blue and white. Sheppard rode the bench all last season waiting on the arrival of an NCAA waiver, one that never came. Wednesday was his first eligible game as a Ram, and he appeared on the court for a solid 32 minutes.
The Rams forced ASU into many trips to the charity stripe, five of these fouls came from senior Fatts Russell, who was recently added to the Naismith Player of the Year watchlist. This came to an advantage for Bobby Hurley’s squad, who shot 74 percent from the free-throw line and added 34 points next to their name on the scoreboard.
Despite being one foul away from sitting, Rams head coach David Cox decided to start Fatts Russell in the second half, and he did not disappoint. For only being on the court 25 of 40 minutes, Russell grabbed six assists, shot 71 percent from the free-throw line, and raked in 12 points. Antwan Walker, who seemed to be Russell’s right-hand man put up 14 consecutive points for the Rams; combining three layups, two dunks, and one 3-point jumper with 12:31 left in the game. This allowed the Rams to clinch their first lead over the Sun Devils since being up 10-9 early on in the first half. Last season Walker only appeared in 21 games, due to becoming eligible mid-way through the season. Before the NCAA cut last season short due to the ongoing pandemic, Walker was averaging 5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Arizona State was lead by guard Remy Martin, a Pacific-12 first-team honors recipient. Martin had six boards, five assists, and a game-high of 26 points. Martin and Marcus Bagley helped secure an ASU lead in the first half combining for 21 points, with 11 and 10 respectively.
It was neck and neck the last 14 minutes of play, as the lead alternated from team to team. Martin tied it up 83-83 for ASU in the last six minutes and their lead was secured with a 9-4 run with assistance from Chris Osten, Marcus Bagley, and Holland Woods.
The Rams will face the Boston College Eagles on Thanksgiving day at 7 p.m. Boston College is also 0-1 after falling to No. 3 Villanova 76-67 last night.