The disappointment of missing the field of 68 followed the Miami University basketball team to Rhode Island Wednesday in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). The University of Rhode Island Rams wrestled with the RedHawks through most of the first half but eventually horned their way to a 76-59 win.
“They are a good team and came out of a pretty good conference,” junior Julian Mavunga said. “But they were a beatable opponent.”The Rams hail from the Atlantic 10, a conference which the ‘Hawks were 1-1 against this season with the victory coming over nationally ranked Xavier University.
“They were good but I don’t know if they were as good as Xavier but they were a pretty good team from the A-10,” senior Nick Winbush said.
After heating up toward the end of the season and toying with first place in the Mid-American Conference East division, the Red and White (16-17) momentum appeared to stay back in Cleveland where the team fell out of the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament eligibility.
“Our second half effort against Akron, if we would have brought that against Rhode Island it would have been a good game,” Mavunga said. “We just couldn’t get anything going offensively or defensively compared to what we expected.”
The team that had won seven of its final 10 regular season bouts shot just 33 percent after accepting its post season bid and allowed the Rams’ Delroy James to a 22 point, 11 rebound and 10 assist triple-double in the early exit.
“He got to the cup really well and they had a few guys that could really shoot,” Winbush said.
James’ effort was the first triple-double in Rams history.
“Maybe they were just better than us,” Mavunga said. “They were a solid team with good shooters and a good player.”
With the lead changing hands multiple times, the RedHawk defense grew tired in the first frame and James imposed his will. After a one-point ball game early on, the Rams used a 16-5 run to propel a 36-24 halftime edge. The Rams (20-13) kept pushing the ball and game tempo for a 16 point lead in the second stanza but the ‘Hawks had one breath left.
Eight minutes into the second frame, sophomore guard Orlando Williams downed a three-pointer to cap an 11-2 RedHawk run and cut the lead to six points. Over the next seven minutes, the Rams rallied with a deathly dosage of James down low and a barrage of long range shots to push the lead to as much as 24 points.
Mavunga managed to lead the ‘Hawks in scoring with 15 points while pulling down seven boards. Williams scored 14 points and had five assists for the Red and White. Junior Chris McHenry netted 11 points in the loss.
“We were kind of down before this game but tried not to let it get in the way but I guess we may have a little bit,” Winbush said.
The Red and White netted nine three-pointers against the Rams to set the school record for 3-point field goals in a season (249).
“Coach Coles told us that it’s sad that we don’t have the record to show with what we put in this year,” Mavunga said.