Men's basketball wins in overtime, defeats UMass Minutemen for first time in three years
Forward Nikola Malesevic takes a shot in the second half of last nights game against the University of Massachusetts. Carissa Johnson | Cigar
If last Saturday's win over the University of Dayton showed that the University of Rhode Island men's basketball team was battle-ready, last night's game against the University of Massachusetts show that it was battle-approved.
The Rams survived several UMass runs and six lead changes to defeat the Minutemen 81-78 in overtime in front of a raucous Thomas M. Ryan Center crowd of 4,236.
The Minutemen came into the game tied for first in the Atlantic-10 Conference.
"It was definitely a hard-fought game," Rhode Island Head Coach Jim Baron said. "I want to thank the fans, the student body, the community. It has been a very challenging and frustrating year from the standpoint of having so many young guys and making the decisions that we've made. It's remarkable how they bounce back. They deserve the credit. It was a really good team win."
Baron emphasized the team's performance, but it was Orion Outerbridge's star that shone the brightest. The senior forward pumped in a career-high 29 points on 11-17 shooting. Outerbridge also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
"His shot was on," Baron said. "He stepped up and made plays. He rebounding the ball. He did a great job of leading."
The game was played in close quarters throughout. Over half the points (82) were scored in the paint. Rhode Island outrebounded UMass 48-35 and was a whopping plus-12 on the offensive glass.
The Minutemen entered the game as the fifth-best rebounding team in the country averaging 41.1 rebounds a game.
Junior Nikola Malesevic put in a solid performance as he continued to recover from a broken hand. The Serbian-born forward finished with 19 points including five in overtime.
"It's been tough with me especially shooting the ball," Malesevic said. "I think I'm getting better. In the second half I felt so much better. It means a lot to me."
Freshman forward Jonathan Holton was plagued late by foul trouble which allowed fellow freshman Dominique McKoy to rise to the occasion. McKoy scored a career-high 10 points off the bench and grabbed seven rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
"I thought that was one of his best games," Baron said of McKoy.
Fellow freshman bench player TJ Buchanan scored five points and was able to lock down whatever player he was defending.
"He's a warrior," Baron said of Buchanan. "He's playing against these guards. You think about Marquis Jones and what he did for us all those. He don't back down. He's a competitor."
The win moves the Rams to 5-18 on the season and 2-6 in Atlantic-10 play. The Rams are two games out of receiving a home game in the opening round of the conference tournament with eight games remaining.
Up next for Rhode Island is a game against Temple University in the annual "Blue Out" game Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Rhode Island will be looking to beat the Owls for the first time since January 2009. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
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