The excitement surrounding Rhode Island basketball extended almost into April last season. This year, it is in danger of being extinguished before December.
URI's struggles not only continued on Saturday, they intensified. The Rams (3-3) suffered perhaps their most bitter defeat yet, blowing a 10-point, second-half lead and falling to Wisconsin, 65-59, at the Civic Center.
This one was especially painful because the Rams had every reason to win. They led most of the way. They played solid defense, perhaps their best defensive effort so far. They got themselves better shots than they had in the last few games and had four players in double figures.
While Wisconsin (5-1) is a hard-working, fundamentally sound team, it is limited and beatable. It is especially beatable when it falls behind, as it did on Saturday, 46-36, midway through the second half.
Still, the Badgers found a way to win. While URI struggled down the stretch, especially at the foul line, Wisconsin came through with a host of huge plays.
Led by senior guards Ty Calderwood and Sean Mason, the visitors took the lead with a 17-3 run in a six-minute stretch of the second half. Mason then made two tremendous shots in the final minutes to clinch it. First, he rained home a 25-footer as the 35-second clock was sounding, a shot that gave Wisconsin its biggest lead to that point, 56-51, with 3:36 remaining. Then, in the final minute, with URI back to within 60-57, he kept the ball and let the clock run down inside single digits before hitting a 15-footer.
"I don't think I've ever seen a tougher shot than his last one," Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett said of Mason's work.
The Rams were a woeful 15 for 32 from the line, or 47 percent.
Fairfield 75, Boston College 70
BOSTON -- Darren Phillip scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Fairfield (3-1) bested Boston College (2-2).
Clinton Sims had 14 points, Kenny Walls scored 13 and Kenny Harley added 12 for the Eagles, who had 29 turnovers.
Notre Dame 81, Southern Utah 77
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Notre Dame (2-4) got 22 second-half points from David Graves in a win over Southern Utah (2-4) in the Great Alaska Shootout consolation round.
The Thunderbirds got 21 points from Jim Faulkner.
Cornell 63, La Salle 61
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Jeffrion Aubry scored 18 points and Cornell (3-2) held La Salle (1-3) without a field goal for the final 9 1/2 minutes to take a win in the consolation game of the Lobo Classic.
Donnie Carr finished with 30 points for La Salle.
Fairleigh Dickinson 70, Manhattan 59
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Chris Ekwe and Danny Sampson each scored 14 points to lead Fairleigh Dickinson (2-0) to a victory over Manhattan (0-1).
Manhattan was led by Ken Kavanaugh's 16 points and Durelle Brown added 15 points for the Knights.