An aggressive University of Rhode Island team took control of the game late in the first half and expanded their control early in the second half then constantly withstood every LSU rally to walk away with a 74-70 victory Saturday night at the Maravich Center.
The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Tigers who will now enter SEC play at 9-3. Rhode Island wins for the second time in three days and third time in the last four games and is now 9-6.
The Rams were led in scoring by E.C. Matthews with 21 points, making 6-of-12 field goals including two treys and 7-of-9 free throws. Gilvydas Biruta hit eight field goals and two treys in scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, while Xavier Munford had 17 points.
The Tigers got a 10-of-15 shooting night from Jordan Mickey who had 21 points. Andre Stringer had 13 points, 7 assists and five steals and Johnny O'Bryant III posted 11.
LSU was handled on the boards, 46-32, including a 16-11 advantage on the offensive boards. O'Bryant III had just three rebounds, Martin two and Mickey four, as LSU's two starting guards were the leading rebounders – Stringer with 6 and Hickey with 5.
LSU found itself down six at the half, 36-30, after Rhode Island used a 13-0 run to move into a seven-point advantage with 6:23 to play. LSU would tie the game later in the half, before the Rams moved back shortly before the intermission.
In the second half, URI moved to a 12-point lead, 43-31 and 45-33, at the 15:55 mark before the Tigers press began to have a big effect. LSU slowly and gradually began to move back, taking a 54-51 lead on a Hickey layup with 9:39 left. It would last just 17 seconds as Munford hit a trey to tie the game at 54.
URI continued to put itself in good situations, opening up eight-point leads at the 4:42 and 4:14 mark before LSU tried to make one final run.
Two free throws by Stringer with 1:56 left cut the game to three, 71-68. Rhode Island turned the ball over in the press and after a missed jumper by Hickey, O'Bryant III laid the ball in to make it 71-70 Rhode Island with 1:24 left.
Then came a series of frustrations to compound the night for LSU. The press forced another URI turnover only to have JOB III turn it back the other way. URI missed two layups, the last on a block by Mickey. That led to a miss by Hickey who went coast-to-coast with the rebound off the block with 33 seconds to play.
The officials ruled the ball belonged to LSU, but used the new rule to check the call on the monitor late in the game. The ball actually was knocked out by LSU and belonged to Rhode Island. LSU almost got a 10-second call but URI called time out before the count hit 10. LSU then fouled and Munford made one free throw.
LSU got the ball and moved to the frontcourt calling timeout with less than 12 seconds left. The inbounds was made to the backcourt to Hickey who dribbled into the front court, took a screen and shot a 22-footer with about seven seconds left that Matthews eventually corralled for the Rams. He was fouled and made two free throws for the final margin.
LSU forced 22 turnovers in the game and got 24 points off those turnovers, but URI also did well getting 15 points off the 12 Tiger turnovers. LSU had 19 steals, tied for the fourth most steals in school history.
The Tigers now have little time to worry about the game as they must turn around quickly as in early Sunday afternoon practice as they host Tennessee Tuesday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN in the first of 18 Southeastern Conference games.
Rhode Island surprises LSU, 74-70
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