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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 6, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mullins Center (9,493) -- Amherst, Massachusetts. Television: None. Home Record: URI 4-6. UMass 6-2. Away Record: URI 2-6, UMass 6-2. Neutral Record: URI 0-2, UMass 2-2. Conference Record: URI 1-6, UMass 4-3. Series Record: Massachusetts leads, 80-58.
GAMES NOTES: Coming off a tough loss the Massachusetts Minutemen return home to the Mullins Center to take on the Rhode Island Rams in an all-New England Atlantic 10 matchup Wednesday night.
The Rams also suffered a disappointment last time out as they fell in a 75-68 decision to then No. 9 Butler on Saturday. The loss was the fourth straight for the Rams who are just 6-14 overall this season, while managing just one win in seven Atlantic 10 bouts. On the road Rhode Island has picked up two wins in eight trips but up next the Rams will play two straight games at home beginning against St. Bonaventure on Saturday.
A turnover by Chaz Williams in the waning seconds sank UMass in a 66-65 loss to Charlotte on Saturday. The loss came after the Minutemen had won four of their previous five matchups. UMass is now sporting a 14-6 overall record while managing to stay just above .500 overall at 4-3 against league foes. It hasn't mattered where they have played this season as the Minutemen are 6-2 both at home and on the road. UMass will host Saint Joseph's in the second tilt of this two-game homestand.
These New England rivals have met 139 times previously. UMass owns an 80-58 edge in the all-time series against the Rams who the Minutemen have played more than any other team. The Minutemen have won three of the last four meetings.
Rhode Island put up quite a fight against the nationally-ranked Bulldogs in the first half on Saturday. The Rams led 32-30 at halftime but allowed Butler to open the second half on a 13-0 run and took control of the game for good. The Rams managed to record just seven field goals on 30.4 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes.
On the campaign Rhode Island has been hard pressed to put forward strong offensive efforts. The Rams are the worst scoring and shooting team in the Atlantic 10 as they net just 62.2 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting. Rhode Island is also last in the league in assists (10.1 pg), while ranking third worst in rebounding (32.3 pg). Xavier Munford (17.2 ppg) leads Rhode Island which has four different players scoring in double figures. Nikola Malesevic (11.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Andre Malone (10.3 ppg) and Mike Powell (10.2 ppg) have all reached that level as well.
UMass trailed for the entire second half against Charlotte before knotting the game at 63-63 with 2:22 remaining. The Minutemen then allowed the 49ers to regain a three-point lead, 66-63, from the free-throw line before Williams hit a layup with 18 seconds remaining. A pair of missed free throw attempts by the 49ers gave the Minutemen the ball with a chance to take the lead, but Williams had the ball and the game stolen by Pierria Henry in the final seconds.
Even though he may have made a critical error in crunch time against Charlotte, Williams is certainly who the Minutemen want with the ball in his hands at the end of a game. The 5-foot-9 guard is leading the team in scoring (15.8 ppg), while topping the Atlantic 10 in assists. His ability to make plays on both ends has been even more vital since losing second leading scorer Jesse Morgan to a torn ACL earlier this season. Terrell Vinson (11.8 ppg) is the only other player scoring in double figures on the roster.
The lack of depth for Rhode Island will really prove to be a weakness with the torrid pace that the Minutemen play. As long as Williams continues to light up the scoreboard, Rhode Island won't have enough firepower to keep up with UMass.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 75, Rhode Island 65
02/06 10:36:21 ET