DAVIDSON, N.C. — Rhode Island gambled, and Davidson point guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson made the 17th-ranked Rams pay for it.
When Rhode Island’s Jared Terrell went for a steal near midcourt on an inbounds play, Gudmundsson took advantage of the sudden 5-on-4 situation, scoring on a driving layup on the right side of the rim while drawing a foul with 3.1 seconds left to lift the Wildcats to a 63-61 upset over Rhode Island on Friday night.
“I got the ball and Terrell went for the steal. I saw the basket so I just went to it,” Gudmundsson said. “I’m glad it went in.”
Coach Bob McKillop said his advance scouting staff had noticed Rhode Island had been much more aggressive on defense in shooting the gap and going for steals.
“Sure enough, there it was,” McKillop said. “It was a fingertip away. If he makes that steal, it was over.”
Instead, the Wildcats celebrated their first win over a ranked team since upsetting then 22nd-ranked Dayton on Jan. 20, 2015.
Senior Peyton Aldridge, who had a career-high 45 points in a marathon triple-overtime loss to St. Bonaventure on Tuesday night, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats (18-11, 13-5 Atlantic 10). Freshman Kellan Grady scored 16 points and Gudmundsson finished with 11.
It was the second loss of the week for the Rams, who were coming off a shocking 30-point home defeat on senior night against unranked Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday night.
Davidson outscored Rhode Island 9-0 over the final 1:47 of the game.
The Rams (23-6, 15-3) squandered a 6-point lead in the final 41 seconds after missing the front end of three straight 1-and-1 free throws. Terrell had a game-high 22 points, but missed two of those chances, including one with 16 seconds left giving the Wildcats a chance to win.
“Up by six with 40 seconds at the line with an older team … you have to close that game out,” Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said.
The Rams had one final shot after Gudmundsson completed the three-point play, but Fatts Russell’s heave from just inside midcourt hit the back rim.
Rhode Island: The Rams have lost three of their last five games and could drop out of the Top 25 after their second loss of the week to an unranked opponent. It also could have a residual effect on the team’s confidence heading into the A-10 Tournament, but Hurley downplayed that notion saying he’s “not concerned at all. We won 16 in a row and 23 games. We had a bad week.”
Davidson: The Wildcats got their biggest win of the season and some momentum heading into the Atlantic 10 Tournament. McKillop said playing St. Bonaventure tough on the road and beating Rhode Island is a huge boost, but said the focus will be on one game at a time from here on out. The Wildcats would likely have to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE GUY: Aldridge, who recently surpassed 2,000 career points, had his sixth straight double-double. He is a strong candidate for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
SENIOR NIGHT: McKillop said he ecstatic for his 2018 class to win on senior night. “They will treasure this memory for the rest of their lives,” he said. “When you can have players leave here and have a chest full of memories like this — that is magnificent.”
FREE THROWS: Free throws were the story of the night. The Rams were 5 of 11 from the line — including the three key misses down the stretch. Davidson was 12 of 14.
Rhode Island: The Rams receive a double-bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and will be the No. 1 seed despite losing their final two regular season games. They will play March 9 in the quarterfinals against an opponent to be determined.
Davidson: If St. Bonaventure loses St. Louis on Saturday, then Davidson will be the tournament’s No. 2 seed in the A-10 tourney. If the Bonnies win, the Wildcats will be the third seed. Either way, the Wildcats won’t play until the quarterfinals.
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