SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP)—Jimmy Baron uncharacteristically struggled with his shot for almost the entire game. He found his stroke at just the right time.
With his Rhode Island team trailing by a point, Baron hit a go-ahead fadeaway jumper with 3.2 seconds left to help No. 22 Rhode Island overcome a seven-point deficit and beat Duquesne 80-78 in the Rams’ conference home opener on Sunday.
“My teammates stayed with me,” said Baron, who finished with 14 points despite connecting on just two of 10 attempts from 3-point range. “They said, ‘Just be confident, keep shooting it.”’
Will Daniels matched a season high with 28 points for Rhode Island. The win kept the Rams (15-2, 1-1 Atlantic 10 conference) undefeated at home this season with an 8-0 record at the Ryan Center. It also gave the team a lift following a 92-83 loss at No. 17 Dayton in their conference opener four days ago.
“This was definitely a very good win for us because we played against a tough, hard-nosed very athletic Duquesne team,” Rhode Island Coach Jim Baron said. “The kids showed a lot of resiliency. We didn’t shoot the ball real well, but I thought we rebounded. I thought we shared the basketball, even though we had too many turnovers.”
The loss snapped the Dukes’ five-game winning streak, who entered Sunday with the program’s best record since the 1979-80 season. Duquesne has already surpassed its victory total from last year, when it won 10.
Reggie Jackson led Duquesne, scoring 19 points, but missed a critical free throw with 11 seconds left that gave Rhode Island control of the ball. Jimmy Baron’s shot put the Rams up 79-78, and Kahiem Seawright sealed the win with a free throw.
Kojo Mensah and Gary Tucker scored 14 apiece for the Dukes (11-4, 1-1).
“When you miss your free throws and you make turnovers that lead to baskets, I thought we shot ourself in the foot,” Duquesne Coach Ron Everhart said.
Rhode Island finished with 17 turnovers, and Duquesne had 18.
The game featured five ties and 11 lead changes, with no team enjoying more than an eight-point advantage at any point. Rhode Island trailed by seven with 10:25 left in the second half, but then scored five unanswered points to pull to 62-60.
Duquesne held the lead until Daniels sank a pair of free throws with 57 seconds left to put the Rams ahead 77-76.
Duquesne answered with a layup by Jackson that gave the Dukes a 78-77 lead with 11 seconds to play. Jackson was fouled on the shot, but missed the ensuing free throw and a chance at a three-point play.
Rhode Island got the ball back and Baron hit what proved to be the winning jumper.
“Make or miss on the free throw, we kind of knew what was coming,” Everhart said. “We just didn’t guard him; he’s good.”
Daniels, a senior forward, had a game-high 11 rebounds, and Seawright added nine points with 10 rebounds for the Rams.
The Rams held a slight rebounding edge, 38-34. But Rhode Island struggled from 3-point range, connecting on just 6-of-18 overall and making just 27 of 57 field-goal attempts.
Rhode Island trailed for most of the first half, falling behind by as many as eight points, but went up 37-36 on a Keith Cothran layup with 38 seconds to play. A dunk by Shawn James nine seconds later gave the Dukes a one-point lead entering the half.
The Rams then opened the second half on a 13-7 run to retake the lead.