photo by Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid
By Jeff Uveino
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Fatts Russell showed a sold out Reilly Center why he is one of the leading candidates for Atlantic 10 player of the year.
The junior guard scored 29 points, including 20 in the second half, for the Rhode Island men’s basketball team in an 81-75 win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday afternoon.
In an 8-for-14 shooting effort, Russell shot 5-for-9 from three-point range and 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
“When I’m hot, I feel like any shot I take is going to go in,” Russell said. “I tried to slow myself down, and pick and choose my spots.”
After trailing 40-35 at halftime, the Rams went on a 7-0 run to begin the second half. They took the lead for good with 14:33 remaining in the second half, when Russell buried a three pointer.
“I felt like once we had the lead in the second half, our guards are good enough to control the game,” Russell said.
Bona made a late push with four minutes remaining, when Justin Winston knocked down a three pointer to make the score 69-66.
That was as close as the Bonnies would get.
Winston was one of five Bonnies to reach double-digit scoring, as he finished with 12 points.
Kyle Lofton led the Bonnies in scoring with 15 points, while Dominick Welch and Jaren English each scored 14 points. Alejandro Vasquez racked up 11 points, including three big three-pointers in the first half.
“I thought the game was decided in the first four minutes of the second half,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We came out lethargic and they came after us.”
Missed free throws plagued the Bonnies down the stretch. They shot 13-for-14 from the line in the first half, but just 7-for-12 in the second half.
“With an inexperienced team, you have to make foul shots,” Schmidt said. “Against a team like Rhode Island, every possession is critical, and I thought that at some points we broke down.”
Tyrese Martin scored 14 points for Rhode Island, including a big three to answer Winston’s and re-establish the Rams’ six-point lead.
Cyril Langevine had 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Jeff Dowtin scored 11 points.
This was St. Bonaventure’s third-straight loss, as it has gotten a taste of the Atlantic 10’s best over the past week. The Bonnies fell to VCU and Dayton previously.
SBU sits at 12-8 overall and 4-3 in the A-10. Rhode Island improved to 14-5 overall and 6-1 in the A-10.
“Rhode Island is one of the best teams in our league, and we were right there with a chance to win,” Schmidt said. “The effort was there, but the execution has to get a little bit better.”
The Bonnies will travel to Fordham on Wednesday before returning home on Feb. 1 to host George Mason.