After last-minute heroics saw the Rams hold off the La Salle Explorers on Wednesday night, many thought that today’s early afternoon contest vs George Washington would serve as a comfortable, rebound win to build the team’s confidence ahead of some intense fixtures. Sadly, that was not the case today. Though URI held a commanding lead for the entirety of the first half, missed shots, missed free throws and overall sloppiness allowed GW to get back into the game. And, as their stars got hot, the Rams’ got cold, and they weren’t able to keep the Colonials from taking the lead late on and holding on to it until the buzzer.

A Successful First Half

Going into today’s game, the GW Colonials were 5-11 on the season and 1-3 in conference play. This was an opportunity for the Rams to gain more confidence and camaraderie, while also climbing the A-10 table with a win. And with how they played in the first half, you’d think they were on track to do just that. URI started very strong, holding a 15 point lead over the visitors after the first nine minutes of the half. The Rams would continue to keep the Colonials at arm’s length, matching their buckets with buckets of their own, eventually heading into the locker with an 8 point lead, up 33-25. Ishmael Leggett was the MVP of the half, putting up 6 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist in 14 minutes. GW just wasn’t able to get into any rhythm during the first half, missing jumpers and layups, and playing to their 5-11 record. But, that form wouldn’t last for very long.

A Shocking Second Half

All the Rams had to do was continue from where they left off in the first half. The Colonials were starting to score, but the Rams had them pinned back, and all they had to do was keep them back and they’d have their fourth A-10 win in a row. But that wasn’t to be. URI started the second half with the advantage, extending their lead to 11 points after three minutes. Soon both teams would trade baskets, with the Rams lead going from 7 to 9 and back to 7 points multiple times. But, from 12:56 to 9:52, the Rams weren’t able to register a field goal. That’s just over three whole minutes without scoring. In this time, the Colonials were able to mount a comeback and even take a 1 point lead, thanks in part to a few URI turnovers. It was at this point where the game became far more intense. The Colonials realized that they had URI on the back foot, and pushed and pushed the Ram’s defense until the end. Both URI and GW would trade the lead for the remainder of the half. GW’s James Bishop, who had a quiet first half, finally got hot, and started to really pound the URI defense, making some incredible tough shots to give the Colonials the lead numerous times. But, the biggest issue for the Rams during the second half was their inability to make free throws. The Rams went 8 for 17 in the second half, with Makhi Mitchell suffering the most, going an abysmal 1 for 6. Those missed free throws would come back to haunt the Rams, as they found themselves down 2 points, 62-60, with 55 seconds to go. Jeremy Sheppard was fouled with 44 seconds to go, but was only able to make 1 of his two free throws, cutting the deficit to 1 point. Following the missed Sheppard free throw, the Rams made a stop on the other end of the court, and moved the ball forward in order to try and put up one last shot, and with a mere 7 seconds left, Jeremy Sheppard slips and loses the ball, forcing the Rams into a foul. Qwanzi Samuels manages to make 1 of his two free throws, leaving 5 seconds on the clock for URI. Sadly though, it was meant to be, as Ishmael El-Amin’s last gasp 3-point attempt was just short, bouncing off the rim as the final buzzer sounded. The GW Colonials just pulled off a shock upset, leaving the Ryan Center stunned to silence.

A Humbling Loss

During his post-game press conference, Coach Cox described today’s loss as a “humbling one”. George Washington came to the Ryan Center to win, and that’s exactly what they did. The Rams, who were shooting 70% on the season from the free-throw line, have now had two straight games where they’ve been poor and inconsistent. Though there are serious causes for concern, both the coach and players understand that this isn’t how they should be playing and that work needs to be done in order for them to improve. The Rams host Richmond on Tuesday before traveling to Dayton in what is anticipated to be an incredibly intense matchup. This will obviously be a blow to the confidence held by Cox’s men, but they simply have to use this loss as motivation to improve if they want to stand any chance at making it to March Madness.