Daniels’ 18 points lead Rhode Island to 65-63 victory over Fordham

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NEW YORK (AP)—Rhode Island started making 3-pointers midway through the second half to get back in the game against Fordham and then was great at the free throw line to build a late lead. The Rams didn’t manage their 20th win of the season, however, until one final, wild play.

Fordham was able to tip away Rhode Island’s final inbounds pass with 5.3 seconds to go, and after a scramble, Bryant Dunston’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed and Rhode Island held on for a 65-63 victory Sunday.

“Winning ugly is sometimes the best to win,” Rhode Island coach Jim Baron said with a wide smile of relief. “Our guys showed tremendous character and resolve to hang in and pull it out. I thought we played great down the stretch, making 3s, then free throws.”

Rhode Island (20-4, 6-3 Atlantic 10), which entered the game third in the conference in 3-point shooting at 38.8 percent, missed 10 of its first 11 attempts from behind the arc and was trailing Fordham (8-12, 2-6) 42-33 with 11 minutes to play.

Jimmy Baron, the coach’s son and the best 3-point shooter, finally broke into the scoring column by hitting a 3 with 10:10 to go. He made one from about 28 feet a minute later and then scored on a drive with 8:25 left. Kahiem Seawright scored down low with 7:13 left to cap Rhode Island’s 10-0 run and it had its first lead of the game, 43-42.

“Our game plan wasn’t really to shoot from the outside so my role changes,” Jimmy Baron said. “They left me open a couple of times and that started a good stretch for us.”

Rhode Island took the lead for good at 55-54 on a layup by Will Daniels with 2:20 to play. After a 3-pointer by Parfait Bitee made it a four-point game with 1:34 left, Rhode Island went 7-of-8 from the free throw line over the next 1:11 and led 65-61 with 23 seconds to go.

Marcus Stout made a layup for Fordham with 5.3 seconds left. Rhode Island called its final timeout to avoid a 5-second inbound violation. When the ball was inbounded, it was tipped and after a brief scramble on the floor, Dunston came up with it but missed the 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“That was a poor pass by me,” said Baron, who inbounded the ball. “I tried to get it high to Kahiem and they got the steal and Dunston got a decent look. It could have been a different story.”

Daniels had 18 points and nine rebounds for Rhode Island, which reached the 20-win mark in the fewest amount of games in school history. Baron had 13 points — eight in that 2-minute stretch—for Rhode Island, which has won five of six, while Seawright had 11 points and 14 rebounds.

“A win’s a win. We could have lost,” Daniels said. “Twenty wins. We’re happy. That’s how this conference is, anybody can beat anybody on a given night. Fordham came at us.”

Stout had 19 points and Dunston added 17 points and 10 rebounds for Fordham, which has lost four straight.

“Our defense was excellent but Bitee and Baron made shots at the end of the game with us in their face, big-time 3-point shots,” Fordham coach Dereck Whittenburg said. “Baron made two big deep ones that gave them a lot of momentum and we just got stymied a little on offense. But it came down to Rhode Island’s toughness and making plays at the end of the game. They were tougher and made the plays.”

Rhode Island finished 5-for-16 from 3-point range (31.3 percent) and it had a 49-33 rebounding advantage.

“We kept mixing and matching defenses but we wanted to be aggressive whether it was inside or outside and we were,” Jim Baron said. “We had to be productive offensively and we were but I said before the game rebounding was going to be the key and it was.”

The two teams, both nicknamed Rams, were among the top four teams in the Atlantic-10’s preseason poll.

Rhode Island, which was in the Top 25 for four weeks until falling out two weeks ago, is one of the three teams from the Atlantic 10 sure to be in the conversation for at-large bids to the NCAA tournament.

Fordham is 12th in the 14-team conference and the bottom two teams don’t even make the league’s tournament.

“Their seniors have stepped up and ours have been inconsistent and that’s the difference,” Whittenburg said.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Rhode Island
Kahiem Seawright Kahiem Seawright
4-6,  11 Pts
14 Rebs, 2 Assists
Bryant Dunston Bryant Dunston
6-15,  17 Pts
10 Rebs, 1 Assists

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Sunday, Feb 10