Rhode Island breaks press, beats slumping West Virginia
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Rhode Island broke West Virginia’s press and broke down the Mountaineer defense in the second half of their game at the Hall of Fame Showcase.
The Rams’ Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell scored 18 points each as Rhode Island pulled away for an 83-70 win at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
Cyril Langevine added 15 points, Christion Thompson had 12 and Jermaine Harris chipped in 11 for Rhode Island (5-3) in a foul-filled game.
Wesley Harris scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Mountaineers (6-4), who have lost two of their last three.
The Rams, who led for more than 33 minutes, were up just 63-62 with 7½ minutes left, but outscored West Virginia 20-8 down the stretch to secure the win.
“I think that these guys are starting to find a rhythm,” coach David Cox said. “I think they’re starting to understand exactly what it’s going to take from these guys, and I think our freshmen are starting to grow up.”
Langevine had five early points, and the Rams jumped out to an early 13-7 lead. But he was among the first to get into foul trouble, picking up two in the first five minutes.
He wasn’t alone. The whistles came early and often and both teams were in the double bonus midway through the first half.
The teams combined for 56 fouls, 28 apiece. Rhode Island’s Jermaine Harris and Dana Tate and West Virginia’s James Bolden fouled out. Seven other players had at least three fouls.
“We knew we had to come out playing physical to set the tone,” said Thompson, who had four fouls. “Once we got adjusted and figured out how the refs were calling the game, we just had to adjust.”
Rhode Island led 45-43 at the break, but trailed 52-50 after a layup and free throw by Lamont West that capped a 7-0 West Virginia run.
But the Rams didn’t panic and took control for good a few minutes later. A 3-pointer from Langevine gave Rhode Island a 69-62 lead and a layup by Tyrese Martin gave the Rams their first 10-point lead at 75-65.
West Virginia shot just 32 percent from the floor and made just eight of their 27 shots in the second half.
“Our two starting guards were 1 for 14. How are you going to win?” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “I don’t think we were ready to play.”
This was the first time this season Rhode Island has put four or more players in double figures.
Junior forward Sagaba Konate missed another game with a right knee injury that has been bothering him since the preseason. Konate set the West Virginia school record for blocked shots a week ago with seven against Pitt and has 191 in his career. He also missed the team’s game against Rider game on Nov. 28 with the injury.
Rhode Island committed just nine turnovers against West Virginia’s full-court pressure, while forcing the Mountaineers into 15 giveaways.
“They had six steals, and we had one,” Huggins said. “We’re supposed to be the best pressing team in America?”
Rhode Island outscored West Virginia 44-24 in the paint and negated the pressure by getting out in transition, where the Rams got 14 points to just four for the Mountaineers.