KINGSTON, R.I. – Rhode Island outscored UNC Asheville 40-23 in the second half as the Rams outlasted the injury-riddled Bulldogs, 73-56 in the third round of the Tip-Off NIT Monday night at Ryan Arena.
Asheville played the game without senior center D.J. Cunningham who missed Monday’s night game with a knee injury. Cunningham is the Bulldogs third leading scorer (11.2) and leading rebounder (9.2) this season.
The Blue & White will now face a 5-1 East Carolina team in the fourth round of the Tip-Off NIT Tuesday afternoon at Rhode Island starting at 5 p.m.
Asheville (1-5) was led by Jaron Lane and Andrew Rowsey with 17 points each. The Rams (5-2) were led by Xavier Munford and Hassan Martin with 14 points each.
“Our effort was good at times tonight, but we just weren’t able to execute enough to beat a good team like Rhode Island on the road,” stated first-year coach Nick McDevitt.
“Without D.J. Cunningham out and some of our other guys who are hurt, we’re asking some of our players to do things that we’ve never asked them to do,” added McDevitt. “But we’re just going to keep working hard and try and get better with each game.”
McDevitt knows another tough task awaits the Bulldogs in playing East Carolina. The Pirates routed McNeese State 91-62 in the first game Monday night.
“East Carolina has a very good team that came pretty close to beating Duke last week,” commented McDevitt. “We’ll see what we can do and try and battle as best we can tomorrow night.”
The Bulldogs led for most of the first half before setting for a 33-33 tie at intermission. Asheville shot .500 (10-of-20) from the field is Rowsey scored 12 points in the opening half.
The Rams dominated the backboards in the first half with an 18-10 advantage as the home team had eight offensive rebounds.
In the second half, Rhode Island took charge of the game quickly as the Rams limited the Bulldogs to just nine points in the first 10 minutes and built a 53-44 lead. Munford scored 10 points in the opening 10 minutes, including two 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs could not make a run down the stretch as they shot .391 (9-of-23) from the field in the second half.
URI finished with a commanding 37-21 edge on the boards and outscored Asheville 38-24 in the paint. The Rams bench outscored the Dogs, 29-10.
Jaleel Roberts made his first career start against Rhode Island. He blocked three shots and grabbed four rebounds but did not score.
Jaron Lane scored in double figures for the second straight game and third time in the last four games. His 17 points was a season-high.
Freshman guard David Robertson scored all eight of his points in the second half. He has hit a three-pointer in five straight games.
Freshman guard Andrew Rowsey scored in double figures for the fifth time in six games.
Asheville had a season-low four assists in the game.
The Bulldogs will play East Carolina Tuesday for the first time since the 1997-98 season when Asheville swept two games against the Pirates. This will be the first time the teams have met on a neutral court.
Asheville began the season with three returning starters from last year’s team. All three didn’t play against Rhode Island as senior guard Trent Meyer, senior center D.J. Cunningham and sophomore forward Will Weeks missed the game with injuries.