Jett, St. Louis Survive, Edge URI 59-58
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
KINGSTON, RI-- Jordair Jett scored a career high 31 points, 21 of which came in the 2nd half, and St. Louis hung on for a 59-58 win over URI Tuesday night in a nail biter at the Ryan Center.
Jett, a St. Paul native who played prep school ball at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., simply refused to let the Billikens lose, sinking clutch shot after clutch shot down the strectch, including a pair of free throws with 7.4 seconds to ultimately tie and win the game.
“He’s a high IQ guy out there,” said St. Louis head coach Jim Crews. “He really understands matchups, really understands how things work out there.”
The first half was another “Rhody Rock Fight” with both teams struggling to generate much offense. SLU shot 33% from the floor, 18% from 3 point range, and 33% from the free throw line, yet led 27-19. By comparison the Rams posted 28%/33%/43% shooting lines.
The game was deadlocked at 14 after Gilvydas Biruta’s layup drew the Rams even for the first time since the game was 2-2. The Billikens ripped off an 8-0 over the next 6 minutes, however, and carried an identical edge in rebounding (27-19) and points into the half.
The 2nd half was an entirely different story, and the whole complexion of the game shifted early in the half when Dwayne Evans, the Billikens’ leading scorer this season, fell into foul trouble.
Over the next 5 minutes and 27 seconds (including a brief reappearance by Evans, only to pick up his 4th foul seconds later) URI outscored St. Louis 19-7, culminating in a free throw from E.C. Matthews to give the Rams their first lead of the game: 42-41.
“I think even prior to his [Evans’] departure our energy level just picked up defensively,” said URI Head Coach Dan Hurley, attributing his team’s run to increased aggressiveness on both ends of the floor.
“Dwayne was playing well for us, so that was difficult,” said Crews.
The game went back and forth the rest of the way, with neither team building a lead that exceeded 5 points. A 3 pointer from Matthews tied the game at 57 with just under a minute to play, and chaos ensued over the final minute.
Jett was stripped while driving the lane on the other end, and as Rhody broke out on the fast break Munford had a short floater blocked to send the break the other way. T.J. Buchanan made a terrific defensive play to block Evans’ layup attempt and URI secured the rebound and called timeout with 29 seconds to go.
URI expected to run a play for the final shot at that point, but Jett was called for a reaching foul on Munford with 17.5 seconds to go, sending URI’s leading scorer to the line with the game tied. Munford made 1 of 2, and St. Louis came down for a quick shot attempt and Jett was fouled with 7.4 seconds to go.
After Jett made the 2 free throws that ultimately won the game, URI ran an inbounds play where Munford caught the ball off a screen and tried to beat Jett down the sideline. Munford was bumped on the play and the ball stripped away, prompting Rhody fans to call for a foul that they never received. Jett was fouled and actually missed the ensuing 2 free throws with 1 second to go, but URI’s last chance heave was batted away from Biruta and the game was over.
Hurley didn’t blame the referees for not calling a foul on Munford’s drive.
“I think the guys did a great job refereeing a physical game,” he said.
Matthews lead the Rams in scoring with 17 points, and Munford added 16 in the loss. Hassan Martin continued his strong play with 8 points and 5 blocks in his 3rd game as a starter for URI.
Hurley was surprised by the scoring outburst from Jett, who came in averaging just 10.5 points per game, but the URI coach spoke very highly of Jett as an all-around player.
“He’s one of the very best players in the league because he affects the game on both ends of the court.”
The result was moderately disappointing for URI given the opportunity the game presented, but overall the Rams played one of, if not the best game they have all season. St. Louis is the defending Atlantic 10 champion, a borderline Top 25 team this season (with a 14-2 record) and figure to be one of the best teams in the league again this year.
“We’re doing what we’re supposed to do- we’re getting better,” said Hurley of his adversity-ridden team. “We’re improving, we’re not there yet.”
URI now stands at 9-7, and 0-1 in conference play. The Rams next play Saturday on the road against George Washington.
Follow me on Twitter @RealJackAndrade