St. Joseph’s was oh so close to its first victory of the season Sunday before it fell apart in the final five seconds of regulation at Rhode Island.
Rams star Fatts Russell was fouled by Myles Douglas on a wild three-point attempt with 4.7 seconds to play. Although Russell’s three made free throws only forced overtime, the Hawks had seen their opportunity slip away.
Russell, the former Imhotep Charter star, scored six of his 20 points in the extra period and the Rams sent St. Joe’s down to a tough 85-77 defeat in an Atlantic 10 Conference game at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I.
The Hawks (0-7, 0-2 A-10) played for the second straight game without leading scorer Ryan Daly, who has a wrist injury. Another starter, Greg Foster Jr., missed the game for personal reasons.
Taylor Funk tried to pick up the slack with a career-high 29 points including five threes. Cameron Brown added 21 points, 14 in the first half. Freshman Jordan Hall chipped in with eight rebounds and eight assists.
“I’m proud of our group,” Hawks coach Billy Lange said. “What we’re trying to do here is continue to grow. So even if we’d won, we have things that we need to get better at.
“But to be fair, and I need to be fair to our guys, we competed well enough to win the game. We just didn’t win. So how do we finish that next time? It’s a combination of things that happened before the last 10 seconds and executing toward the end.”
Things were looking up for St. Joe’s with 49.7 seconds left in regulation. That’s when Funk dove to the basket and deposited a pass from Hall for a layup, got fouled and made the free throw for a 67-65 lead.
After a turnover by the Rams (5-5, 2-1), Hall sank both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it a four-point game with 19.7 seconds to play. But Jalen Carey hit a short jumper with 12 seconds left for Rhode Island and Brown, fouled with 8.8 seconds left, made just one of two from the line for a 70-67 advantage.
The 5-foot-11 Russell took the inbounds pass and sped down the near sideline. He shot wildly as he was being fouled 25 feet from the basket by Douglas, playing in only his second game of the season after returning from injury.
“Of course there’s contact, it’s just who initiated it,” Lange said. “But the official sees contact and that’s how he sees it. We wanted to foul [Russell] at half-court but we weren’t able to catch him, and our guys know not to foul after seven seconds. I don’t think that he was trying to foul him.”
An 85% free-throw shooter, Russell sank all three shots. Hall’s long three-point try at the buzzer fell short.
St. Joe’s never led in overtime and made just two shots, the second a three-pointer by Jack Forrest that brought the Hawks to within one possession at 80-77 with 44.6 seconds to play. But D.J. Johnson’s three sealed the win for the Rams with 16.1 seconds left.