Any steps forward the West Virginia Mountaineers (6-4) took in the Backyard Brawl last Saturday were followed up by massive leaps backwards, or at least that’s what it looked like this afternoon in Uncasville, Connecticut when the Mountaineers took on the Rhode Island Rams (5-3) in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase.
Sagaba Konate was ruled out of the contest with a knee injury shortly before tipoff, leaving West Virginia relying on Esa Ahmad and a conglomeration of inconsistent players to show up against a Rhode Island team that dominates the glass and doesn’t turn the ball over.
Spoiler: It went poorly.
The Rams jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the opening minute, but a corner three from Chase Harler pulled the Mountaineers within two points. Rhode Island grew their lead to 18-13 at the 12:00 mark of the first half.
Neither team was able to establish any sort of rhythm due to the officials continually stopping play, but the Mountaineers were able to tie the game up at 37-37 with a Brandon Knapper three with just over three minutes left in the half.
Rhode Island answered back with threes from Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell, and took a two point lead into the half.
Rhode Island opened the second half with a 5-0 run, but the Mountaineers managed to hang around long enough to tie the game back up at 59-59 with just over 12 minutes remaining.
The Rams pulled back into the lead and stretched it to 69-62 with 5 minutes left before Wesley Harris drained a three to get the Mountaineers back within striking distance, but it was all for naught as Rhode Island surged ahead to take an 81-67 lead with just over a minute left on the clock.
Wesley Harris led the Mountaineers with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Esa Ahamad turned in 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. James Bolden fouled out in the final minute of the game, ending the day with 1 point, 2 assists and 4 turnovers.
The Rams were led by Fatts Russell and Jeff Dowtin, each with 18 points, and Cyril Langevine finished with 15 points.
The Mountaineers return to action next Saturday when the take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks in Morgantown. That game will tipoff at Noon EST and will be broadcast on AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh.