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By ERIC RUEB
KINGSTON â There is still something left to play for.
The losses have piled up all season and have come in different fashions. There have been blowouts, thereâs been tough overtime losses and games where the University of Rhode Island menâs basketball team just didnât deserve to win.
Wednesday the Rams didnât necessarily deserve a victory; they were outrebounded and gave up a 10-point first-half lead, and with a shot to win came up with no legit looks at the basket to end the game there.
But they didnât deserve the 72-66 overtime loss handed to them by St. Bonaventure.
âItâs still tough on us,â URIâs Andre Malone said. âWe want to win so bad. Weâre playing hard, practicing hard and weâre just not getting the win. We should have had this one.â
At 3-18, 0-6 in the Atlantic 10, there will be no talk of the postseason. Any NCAA hopes â which werenât really there before the season began â ended quickly during non-conference play and any of the faux-tourneys were out of the question once the Rams hit double digits in the loss column.
Sitting in last place in the A-10, it looks like URIâs chances of making the conference tournament are slowly slipping away as well. With 10 games left in the season â starting Saturday on the road against Dayton â the Rams will need to win at least half of them if they donât want their season to end March 3 against Massachusetts.
And while thatâs an unlikely probability, it doesnât mean itâs time to pack it in. The Rams might not be competitive in the standings, but that inner drive hasnât been killed quite yet.
âWeâre playing for the future. Weâre playing for every day trying to get better down the stretch so we can finish up as strong as we possibly can,â URI coach Jim Baron said. âThereâs a lot of basketball left to be played and again when youâre close, you have to keep working to grab one and to keep pulling together as a unit.â
Overtime the Rams werenât a unit. They played sloppy and passive and St. Bonaventure took advantage. The Bonnies hit both shots attempted in the overtime â starting with a DaâQuan Cook jumper 1 minute, 6 seconds in â and made seven of 12 from the line.
URI hit none of its six shots from the floor and scored five points in OT on free throws, but the Rams were in the game until 26 seconds left when freshman Mike Powell turned the ball over on a pick-and-roll where Powell got stuck under the basket after being fronted by Youssou NDoye.
St. Bonaventureâs Matt Wright was fouled 10 seconds later and made both free throws; a last ditch miss on a 3-pointe by Billy Baron didnât matter much and SBUâs Chris Johnson made two free throws with five seconds left for the gameâs final points.
âHe didnât use the ball screen and now he couldnât break anyone down coming off the screen and he kind of got stuck in the air,â Baron said, âand just couldnât complete the play.â
âWe have to grow up,â Malone said. ââŠ We have a freshman point guard at the end of the game turn the ball over; it was all right, we werenât too mad at him but we have to limit the little things like that in crunch time of the game. There were a couple of games we lost because of turnovers at the end of the game.â
Turnovers werenât the reason the Rams didnât score at the end of regulation.
Up 10 at half, St. Bonaventure went on a 15-2 lead to start the second half and the game was a battle the rest of the way, with neither team leading by more than three. There were eight lead changes and four ties, the last coming when Orion Outerbridge rebounded and put back a Malone miss with 1:10 left.
After a missed 3-pointer by SBUâs Demitrius Conger with 41 seconds left, Outerbridge corralled the rebound and URI held for one last shot. In all but expected fashion, it was a rushed 3-pointer by Malone and the ball was rebounded by St. Bonaventureâs Andrew Nicholson, who was then stripped by Billy Baron.
URI called timeout and ran in inbound play. The inbound pass by Powell went to Outerbridge, who flicked it to Baron, who threw up a desperation shot that never had a chance.
âThey have a play that is a lob play [we looked for] with 2.5 left,â SBU coach Mark Schmidt said. âIâm not sure what they ran, but thank goodness it didnât work.â
âThe out of bounds play, I set that up for Andre to get the ball because he was hot at the time,â Baron said. ââŠ It was just bad.â
Things could have gone better for URI Wednesday night, but itâs been the story of the season; things have not gone well and the results have shown it.
So while there will be no Big Dance, no NIT, no whatever the names are of the tournaments no one cares about and, very likely, no shot to make it to Atlantic City for the A-10s, the Rams will continue to play and continue to play hard, which means finding a goal and trying to achieve it.
âWeâre playing to win every game,â Malone said. âWe ainât trying to look forward to next year or anything like that. Weâre trying to win every game left in the season.â