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BONA LOOKS TO GET WELL VS. SLUGGISH RAMS

The speeding St. Bonaventure bandwagon has slowed considerably after two straight losses.

If the Bonnies can't beat lowly Rhode Island today in the sold-out Reilly Center (4; Empire, Radio 95.7 FM), they'll really have a problem on their hands.

Coming off losses at Fordham and George Washington, Bona (12-4, 4-2 Atlantic 10) needs a win to avoid the possibility of slipping into fourth place in the A-10 East. Rhode Island (5-14, 2-4) is last in the East.

The two losses have sent Bona careening 1 1/2 games behind Temple (6-1) in the East and in a fight to hold on to second place.

Bona is tied for second with UMass (10-8, 4-2) and is just a half-game ahead of St. Joseph's (9-7, 4-3). The top two teams in each division get first-round byes in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

The losing streak, which began with the Bonnies blowing a 15-point second-half lead at Fordham, is the first major adversity the team has faced this season.

"We can't feed into all the hype we've gotten," said Bona guard Tim Winn, whose team was ranked as high as 10th in the Ratings Percentage Index and 29th in the national polls after its Jan. 15 win over Temple. "All it takes is a loss for people to jump off that bandwagon. Everyone is saying, 'It's the same old Bonaventure team,' but we don't feed into that.

"We have our own motivation. We have to play. When we win, everybody's like, 'We won tonight. We're so great.' When you lose a game like Fordham, it's like, 'They lost. They let down.' But that comes with the territory."

The two losses have dropped the Bonnies to 27th in the RPIs, not that big of a drop when you consider no team in the top 35 has been left out of the NCAA Tournament in the last 16 years.

A loss to Rhode Island, however, would be damaging.

Under first-year coach Jerry DeGregorio, the Rams are a shell of the team that won the A-10 Tournament last year. That's largely because star Lamar Odom left for the NBA and coach Jim Harrick took off for Georgia.

Rhode Island is No. 189 in the RPIs and had a 10-game losing streak earlier this season.

Freshman guard Zach Marbury, the 5-foot-10 younger brother of New Jersey Nets star Stephon Marbury, is URI's leader scorer at 15.3 points. The Rams are the A-10's lowest-scoring team (65 ppg), second-worst in defense (75.9) and worst in rebound margin (-4.9).

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