AMHERST, Mass. – Second half runs of 13-3 and 9-1 erased a two-point deficit and led UMass to 64-54 victory over Rhode Island in a defensive battle on Sunday afternoon at the Mullins Center. Anthony Gurley led the way with 21 points as the Minutemen (13-7) pick up a key victory in the Atlantic 10 standings, improving to 5-2, good for a tie for fourth in the standings, while the Rams (13-8) drop to 4-3.
UMass went on a 9-1 run between the 8:08 and 3:21 marks of the second half. The defense fueled the run, holding URI without a field goal for 5:27 to take an 11-point lead, 55-44.
Rhode Island took its first lead of the game at the 14:34 mark of the second half when Nikoli Malesevic’s jumper made it seven-straight URI points as it took a 32-30 lead, but UMass answered with a 13-3 run over a 3:35 span, capped off by two Sampson Carter free throws after URI head coach Jim Baron was assessed a technical foul at the 11:02 mark to give the Minutemen an eight-point lead, 43-35.
UMass shot 37 percent in the contest, including 8-of-26 from 3-point range, but it was enough as the defense held URI to 35.6 percent shooting, including 7-of-30 from beyond the arc, and UMass scored 16 points at the free throw line. The Minutemen controlled the boards throughout the game, finishing with a 43-32 advantage, led by Sean Carter and Terrell Vinson with eight apiece.
Rhode Island was led by Delory James with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Gurley drained a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first half to break a tie and give the Minutemen a 25-22 lead at halftime. The senior led UMass with seven points in the half as the team shot 36 percent from the field, making five of its last 20 shots after starting the game 4-of-5. Rhode Island recovered from its 2-of-14 start to finish the half shooting 28.6 percent.
After UMass built an early 13-point lead, 17-4, URI responded with an 11-3 run, capped off by back-to-back 3-pointers by James and Malesevic to cut the Minutemen’s lead to five, 20-15 and force them to call timeout with 7:45 left in the half. The run continued after the timeout as URI ran off 11-straight points to tie the game, 20-20 with 3:13 left in the half.
The Minutemen jumped on the Rams early, taking a 6-0 lead as URI missed its first eight shots in the first four minutes of the game. UMass continued to pour it on in the early going, as a 3-pointer by Freddie Riley and a layup by Sampson Carter on back-to-back trips forced a URI timeout with 13:42 left and the Minutemen leading 15-2.
The Minutemen return to action on Wednesday when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Billikens in a 8 p.m. ET contest.