WIRE AND STAFF REPORTS
KINGSTON, R.I. — La Salle battled back from a 14-point, second-half deficit to take a one-point lead on two separate occasions late in the second half. But the comeback effort fell just short as Rhode Island pulled out a 66-63 win at the Ryan Center on Saturday afternoon.
Fatts Russell, who scored 13 points, made two free throws with two seconds left to secure the win for the Rams.
Jeff Dowtin added 10 points for URI, including a pair of clutch foul shots with 10 seconds left for a 64-59 lead.
After Dowtin’s free throws, La Salle’s Isiah Deas was fouled shooting a three-pointer with four seconds left. Deas made the first two free throws but missed the third. Ed Croswell snared the rebounded and made the put back to cut the margin to one.
Following Russell’s free throws, the Explorers did not get off a potential tying shot.
Rhode Island (12-5, 4-1 Atlantic 10 Conference) has won four straight and five straight against La Salle.
Deas finished with 19 points for the Explorers (10-7, 1-4) and Scott Spencer added 14. Croswell had nine rebounds.
Rhode Island shot only 41% but scored 26 points off of 22 La Salle turnovers and went 22-of-32 from the foul line where the Explorers were 5-of-11.
The first half was marked by streaks.
A three-ball from Spencer gave La Salle its first lead of the game, 10-9, and, after a layup by URI, seven consecutive points from Deas upped the margin to 17-11.
The Explorers remained in front until the midway point of the half, when the Rams went on an 8-0 spurt to gain a 25-21 lead. Six straight from La Salle, including a backdoor dunk by junior David Beatty, swung momentum back in the favor of the visitors with 5:45 left.
URI scored 12 of the next 15 points and entered the half with a 39-33 lead.
Deas posted 12 points in the opening half on 5-of-9 shooting while freshman Ayinde Hikim had eight points and five assists.
Rhode Island would build its lead to as many as 14 points toward the 10-minute mark of the second stanza before the Explorers began their run.
A full-court press and flummoxing zone forced the Rams into four turnovers and 1-of-3 from the field over a five-minute stretch that saw La Salle pull ahead, 55-54, following a three-pointer by Spencer.
The two teams traded baskets before a pivotal run of six straight points for Rhode Island put the score at 62-57 with 2:12 remaining.