Amherst, MA – Point guard Jeff Dowtin played close to a perfect game in helping No. 22 Rhode Island hold off UMass 85-83 tonight at the Mullins Center in front of 4,194 excited but ultimately disappointed fans. The win was URI’s 13th in row and it was their 18th straight Atlantic 10 win, dating back to last season. Dowtin registered 19 points and 10 assists against only one turnover. 6-3 Jared Terrell led the Rams with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting. 5-9 point guard Luwane Pippins scored a game-high 27 points for the Minutemen, converting 3-of-5 three-pointers.
Rhode Island held what appeared to be a comfortable 14-point lead with 4:51 remaining. However, UMass battled back helped by five late free throw misses from the Rams and some timely shooting from Pipkins and Carl Pierre (16 points with four 3’s). Pipkins hit a three-pointer with 10.1 seconds left to cut URI’s lead to 84-82. After one Rhody free throw Pipkins was fouled with 1.8 seconds left. He made the first to cut the lead to two points. He then missed the second on purpose, grabbed the rebound and apparently was fouled and could have tied the game. However he was called for a lane violation moving into the lane before the ball hit the rim. In viewing he play after the game it was a very close call.
UMass came out of the game on fire, making nine of their first eleven shots and taking a 25-12 lead. URI came roaring back and went on a 21-2 run to take a 33-27 lead. They extended the lead to 41-34 on back-to-back three-pointers from Dowtin. Pippins cut the margin to 44-41 with a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
This Rhode Island team plays basically four guards with one 6-8 player. Andre Berry starts at center and scored 15 points tonight and averages 9.8 points. URI’s strength is in their guards, particularly Dowtin, Terrell, E.C. Matthews and Stanford Robinson.
Dowtin is extremely impressive, sees the floor as well as anyone in the country, plays under control and seldom makes a mistake. After tonight’s game he has 118 assists against only 24 turnovers, a 4.92 ratio. Terrell is very strong and has taken over the top offensive role on the team. He’s averaging 18 points a game on 41 percent three-point shooting and 87 percent from the foul line. He’s also one of the best lock-down defenders around. He’ll start showing up on some second round NBA mock drafts if he keeps it up. Matthews has had a injury-plagued career and has taken a step back athletically. He’s still solid enough to average 14 points a game. The 6-4 Robinson does the dirty work, often matched up against a power forward. He’s averaging 10.2 points, leads the team with 5.6 rebounds and adds over two steals per game.
Rhode Island (18-3, 10-0) typically plays lock-down pressure defense from their guards and has a +117 turnover advantage and a +43 advantage in steals this season. They generally make it very difficult for their opponents to get into their offense quickly. The Rams head next to Richmond to face VCU on Friday night, a tough test to extend their winning streak. UMass (10-13, 3-7) stays home to face Dayton on Saturday.
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