EditorsNote: changes to “353rd” in next-to-last graf
Fatts Russell scored 22 points and Jeff Dowtin added 21, leading the Rhode Island to a 93-79 win over Alabama on Friday night in Kingston, R.I.
The Rams (2-1), who led by as many as 22 points in the first half, had their advantage cut to five with 3:28 left in the game before holding on for the win.
It was the first time Rhode Island had ever hosted an Southeastern Conference school at the Ryan Center.
The result of Friday’s game may seem like a surprise, but not when you consider that second-year Rhode Island coach David Cox has all five of his starters back from last season, when the Rams finished 18-15. The Rams, who have made the NCAA Tournament in two of the past three years, were picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 this season.
Russell, who had a 41-point game last season against St. Joseph’s, had five rebounds and five assists against Alabama. Dowtin made 9 of 11 shots from the floor as the Rams’ backcourt dominated.
Alabama (1-2) was led by Kira Lewis Jr. The preseason first-team All-SEC guard had 21 points and four assists but couldn’t bring the Tide back. Alabama lost while playing its first road game of the season.
The Tide welcomed back 6-foot-7 wing Herbert Jones, who missed the prior contest due to an elbow injury sustained in a season-opening loss to Penn. Jones had 17 points against the Rams but appeared to sustain a bruised left knee late in the game.
Rhode Island fell behind 6-0 to start the game, turning the ball over three times and missing one shot on its first four possessions.
But two Russell jumpers, including a 3-pointer, got the Rams on the scoreboard, and Rhode Island led for the game’s final 35 minutes.
Rhode Island settled for a 50-33 lead at the break, shooting 56.3 percent from the floor in the first half.
Alabama, which was minus-6 in first-half turnovers, shot just 38.9 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, including 0-for-10 on 3-point tries.
Another important factor in the decisive first half was Rhode Island’s 5-for-11 shooting from 3-point range. Last season, Rhode Island made just 28 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked 353rd in the nation.
In the second half, Alabama finally got hot, making 4 of 8 from 3-point distance in the first 13 minutes, cutting its deficit to 73-67. However, the Tide couldn’t maintain the momentum.
—Field Level Media