There may not have been any points bigger in the last four years than Lamonte Ulmer’s 1,000th.
The senior forward’s historic tally came when his team needed it most, cleaning up a missed free throw and laying the ball in to push the lead back up to nine and all but clinch an 87-76 victory for the Rams over St. Joe’s. The win sets up a date between the Rhode Island and St. Louis on Friday in the A-10 Quarterfinals in Atlantic City and keeps their dreams of an NCAA berth alive.
“I’m disappointed in the result,” said St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli. “I’m happy for our players that they go the chance to experience postseason play, and really maximize the effort, and we still leave not good enough.”
The Hawks were led by a game-high 27 points from senior Darrin Govens in his last collegiate game. Govens finished 10-22 from the field, accounting for over a third of the team’s shots, and 4-12 from three-point range, exactly half of the team’s makes and attempts.
Carl Jones added 15 points off the bench, while Justin Crosgile and Idris Hilliard each had 10. Garrett Williamson wrapped up his days on Hawk Hill by fouling out close to a triple-double with eight points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.
“We came out and we played with some heart today,” Williamson said. “The last time we came up here, we folded in that first four minutes. I’m proud of our effort, it’s just a shame we weren’t able to get it done.”
Keith Cothran and Ulmer led a balanced Rams’ attack with 15 points each. All 15 of Cothran’s came in the second half after foul trouble limited him in the first 20 minutes of play. Delroy James was the only other Ram in double-figures with 11 points.
Rhode Island was a portrait of balance on the offensive end, with 10 players seeing time on the court and all of them scoring at least five points. No one logged more than 27 minutes for the Rams.
The Rams jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, but St. Joe’s responded with a 10-0 spurt of their own to go up 10-5, their largest lead of the game. Rhode Island gradually took control behind major contributions from their bench, including five points each from Jamal Wilson, Ben Eaves, and Orion Outerbridge. The Rams stretched the lead as high as eight before Govens’ first three of the game with under four seconds left sent the Hawks into the interval down just five, 37-32.
“We felt confident,” Govens said. “We came in, everybody looked ready to go out for the second half and try to come out with the victory.”
But URI turned on the offense in the second half, tallying 50 points on 58.3 percent shooting (14-24) from the field, including 6-10 from three-point range. The Hawks stuck close, cutting the lead to one on two different occasions, but they just couldn’t get over that hump.
“In the second half, we didn’t establish anything defensively to get stops,” said Martelli. “The defense lost a little bounce, which has been a factor all year. When they’re in front of me, and I can talk to them or the coach who has the scouting report can talk to them through the possession, they’ve been fine. But in the second half, they’ve been less than stellar, and they were less than stellar tonight”
The deficit stood at seven with 1:18 left after a three by Govens with Marquis Jones stepping to the line. He missed both free throws, just two of 11 misses from the charity stripe for the Rams in the second half, but Ulmer was there to emphatically shut the window that so briefly appeared open for the Hawks.
That was one of many little things that did the Hawks in on this night that Martelli said will haunt them in retrospect. They had several turnovers in the teeth of the Rams’ fullcourt press, finishing the game with 14 total. They also had several missed layups from Todd O’Brien, and missed assignments on the perimeter preventing them from coming with some very important stops. The Hawks also got beat on the boards, and while the 36-30 margin may not be indicative of the Rams’ advantage, the 25-8 edge in second-chance points certainly is.
Despite still getting tagged with the loss, Martelli and his players can take some solace in the vastly improved effort from their first trip to Kingston earlier this season in which they were dispatched by the Rams by 27 points.
“The last time, I brought a bunch of little boys,” Martelli said, who said he made sure his players didn’t bring the baggage of the last game with him on this trip. “This time I brought men, and we weren’t good enough.”
“We’re way better, mostly because we stopped feeling sorry for ourselves and we started to come together, not only in games but in practice,” said Jones. “We started working harder.”
As far as the Hawks seniors, the reality still hasn’t set in that their college careers have come to an end.
“Damn, it’s over,” Williamson said. “It’s been a great four years. I wished we’d won more. It is what it is.”
“It’s over,” added Govens. “I didn’t think about it yet. I guess I’ll think about it when I’m looking to go to practice or something. It’s over.”
– Matthew De George