Rhode Island men’s basketball is now 5-4 A-10 (8-8) after a hard-fought conference win over Fordham 52-42. The Rams took over after overcoming a five-point halftime deficit. This matchup was particularly difficult for Coach Cox’s squad as they were without Fatts Russell. Let’s take a look into yesterday’s matchup.
That’s A First
With the absence of Fatts Russell, freshman Ishmael Leggett made his first career start.
Coach Cox said that Fatts’ injury came on Wednesday at Duquesne. The senior injured his core and had difficulty trying to practice. However, Cox said Fatts should, without a doubt, be playing in Rhody’s next matchup.
When asked about the senior’s status at La Salle on Wednesday, Cox said, “Fatts Russell in Philadephia? You tell me if you think he’s playing.” The Philly native scored a career-high 41 points on March 5, 2019, in a 86–85 overtime win against St. Joseph’s.
Leggett did a great job stepping up with Russell out, providing 12 points and seven rebounds. That was a career-high for the freshman, and he scored five of his points at the free-throw line.
Coach Cox was undoubtedly pleased with the freshman, “Did you see him? He was flying through the air; he grabbed balls from bigs and was diving on the floor. We needed everything, every point, every rebound, every loose ball.”
Another player who had to step up without Fatts Russell was Jeremy Sheppard. The senior guard has impressed many this season, averaging 10.4 points per game with a 49.6% FG and 41.4% from three.
He narrowly missed his first career double-double, scoring a game-high 16 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Sheppard also added three steals and two assists.
Sheppard says he misses the Ryan Center crowd, witnessing it from the bench last season. “I was waiting, waiting to get that experience, didn’t happen but can’t use that as an excuse.”
Great Second Half
An elite second-half defensive effort spurred Rhode Island to victory after they trailed by five points at the start of the second half. Neither side found much offensive rhythm in the first half.
Fordham (1-7, 1-7 A-10) had seven points off the bench from Ty Perry and six points in the middle from Joel Soriano. Rhode Island was led by 10 points from Jeremy Sheppard, but no other player had more than three points in the half as URI was just 9-of-28 from the floor.
After the half, Rhode Island held Fordham to just 14 points. The visitors shot only 22.2 percent (6-for-27). URI ended the game on a 13-2 run over the final 6:50. The run allowed Rhody to play in command down the stretch. A pair of Ishmael Leggett free throws gave Rhody its first lead of the second half at 39-38, and an Allen Betrand 3-pointer on the team’s next possession gave Rhode Island the lead for good. Fordham made just one of its final nine shots, while URI hit on five of its last seven attempts to pull away when it mattered most.
What’s Up Next?
Next up, the Rams will travel to Philadephia for a matchup at 5:00 on Wednesday, January 27th. The Explorers are 4-4 A-10 (7-8) and led by a sophomore duo, Sherif Kenney and Jack Clark. Kenney averages 9.1 points per game, and Clark averages 9.0 points and 5.2 rebounds.
La Salle has a lot of depth, with nine players averaging 17.7+ minutes per game.
The Rams play at the Ryan Center again on February 3rd, against VCU (4-2 A-10, 11-4).
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