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URI Survives Overtime, Beats George Mason 71-69

Saturday, January 18, 2014


KINGSTON, RI-- It took overtime, controversy, and some helpful use of instant replay, but the URI Rams scored their first Atlantic 10 win of the season Saturday with a 71-69 triumph over George Mason.

Xavier Munford scored 28 points in the victory, including 10 of the Rams’ 15 points in the overtime period. Gilvydas Biruta added a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and E.C. Matthews scored 14 points despite a rough shooting day (3-12) for the freshman guard.

Munford made a fast break lay-up in a 2 on 1, and added 2 free throws a minute later to put the Rams up 4 early in O.T. Sherrod Wright cut the lead to 2 with a nifty baseline floater about halfway through the period, but Munford stretched the lead back to 4 with a difficult lay-up on the other end.

Anali Okoloji hit a 3-pointer cut the deficit to 1, but Munford responded yet again, draining a 3 of his own to make it 65-61. A Johnny Williams layup made it 65-63 with 50 seconds left, and the 2 teams traded 3 free throws apiece over the next 43 seconds.

With 7.2 seconds left and a one point lead, URI inbounded the ball and got the rock into the hands of Matthews, who calmly drained both of his free throws with 4.8 seconds left to give URI a 3 point advantage.

URI tried to intentionally foul on the ensuing inbounds play, but Matthews was called for a shooting foul 70 feet from the basket and Bryon Allen was awarded 3 free throws in an incredibly controversial call.  Allen made all 3, tying the game with 2.2 seconds to go. The craziness wasn’t over yet.

Buchanan threw a long inbounds pass to Biruta, who was matched up against the much smaller Holloway on the play and drew a foul with 0.7 seconds to go. Biruta made both free throws, and URI escaped with a 71-69 win.

George Mason out-shot URI 47% to 38% for the game, but URI overcame a lackluster shooting day with uncharacteristically strong free throw shooting (77%, 23-30) and an 11-15 advantage in turnovers.

URI trailed by 4 points at the half, and the Rams were lucky the game was as close as 29-25. George Mason outshot URI 48% to 36% in the first half and won the rebounding battle 19-12.

T.J. Buchanan directs the Rhody offense

No GMU player scored more than Sherrod Wright’s 12 points, but the balanced Patriots attack saw 7 players score at least 7 points in the loss. It was a heartbreaking loss for Head Coach Paul Hewitt’s team, as it drops the Patriots to 0-4 in conference play and 7-11 overall.

URI Head Coach Dan Hurley pointed to Biruta as an emotional catalyst in the second half.

“I thought our guys showed tremendous spirit, toughness, led by Gilvydas,” Hurley said.

The game went into overtime at 56-56 after a back and forth last few minutes in regulation.

A long 2-pointer by Munford was overturned on instant replay and ruled a 3-pointer to give URI a 53-48 lead with 1:19 to play. Patrick Holloway made a circus shot on the other end for George Mason to cut the lead to 3, and Okoloji made a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 1 after a Munford turnover inside on 1 minute.

T.J. Buchanan and Sherrod Wright traded a pair of free throws each, and Munford made just 1 of 2 free throws with 16 seconds left, affording GMU the opportunity to tie the game 5 seconds later on a pair of free throws from Jalen Jenkins.

E.C. Matthews got into the paint area in the final seconds but never got a shot attempt off due to the mauling GMU defense. 40 minutes proved insufficient in determining a winner, so on to overtime they went.

URI now stands at 1-3 in Atlantic 10 play, and 10-9 overall on the season. The Rams travel to St. Joseph’s on Wednesday, and their next home game is next Saturday against Dayton.



E.C. Matthews (#0) and Biggie Minnis (#10) sign autographs for kids after the game

--Munford said after the game that he didn’t try and take over the game in overtime, but he kept getting good looks in the flow of the offense and let his aggressiveness take care of the rest.

--Hurley elected not to call a timeout on the final play in regulation. He explained postgame that he didn’t want to allow George Mason to sub in a different package of defensive players or switch into a tricky zone defense for the final play.

--Hurley also clarified that the Rams were trying to give a foul late in overtime (and prevent a game-tying 3), and the controversial “act of shooting” foul call was something he’d need to see the replay of in order to judge the validity of the call.

--Buchanan started his first game of the season (and the 14th start of his career) Saturday in favor of Biggie Minnis at the point guard spot. Minnis had a disastrous game at La Salle on Wednesday, but Hurley said he’s still committed to getting the most out of struggling transfers Minnins and Jarelle Reischel.

--On the lighter side of things, several URI players signed autographs postgame for a line of young Rhody fans. It’s something the program does a few times a season and it drew a crowd of smiling faces after the win.


Follow Jack on Twitter @RealJackAndrade


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