Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jimmy Baron's 29 Points Lead URI Over Fordham

Jimmy Baron went 10 of 12 from the field, including six three-pointers, to lead the Rams of URI over the Rams of Fordham, via ProJo Sports:

The biggest game of the season — a Wednesday night meeting with Dayton at the Ryan Center — loomed in the distance, and it would have been understandable if the University of Rhode Island was caught looking past the 3-20 Fordham Rams on Saturday. But Jim Baron wasn’t going to let that happen. "They have good young players," the URI coach said of the other Rams. "They have guys who can score."

So his Rams kept their focus, charged out to an early lead and coasted to a dominant 77-58 victory. And they got a further reward Saturday night when Dayton was upset by Saint Louis, throwing the top of the Atlantic 10 race into chaos. The Flyers are now tied with Xavier for first place with 9-3 records, and Temple is a half-game back at 8-3. Also a half-game back, at 9-4, is URI. Xavier hosts George Washington and Temple hosts St. Bonaventure on Sunday. So keeping focused paid huge dividends for Rhode Island, which reached the 20-victory mark for the second straight season and now has 60 wins in the last three years under Jim Baron, the best three-year stretch under one coach in school history.

The first half, which saw URI build a double-digit lead before the 10-minute mark, might have well been renamed The Jimmy Baron Show. Baron, URI’s star 6-foot-3 sharpshooter and the A-10’s leading 3-point shooter, used the first half as his personal launching pad. He buried his first six field-goal attempts, including four from downtown. URI rode Baron’s 19 points to a comfortable 43-27 lead. Baron took his hot start in stride. "It’s going to happen," Baron said. "Last game, Keith Cothran carried us. There are three or four guys on the team that can have that type of game."

On a day when he finished with 29 points and shot 6-for-8 from downtown, the message was simple: give the ball to Jimmy. "He was on fire today," forward Delroy James said. "He led us in the first half, got us going and then we just capitalized on that."

Fordham had plenty of opportunities to close the first-half gap. But excluding freshman Jio Fontan’s 5-for-8 first half, the home team shot 3-for-18 from the field, including 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. Baron’s sweet stroke did not turn sour in the second half, as he drained his first two three-point attempts, while forwards James, Kahiem Seawright and company stifled Fordham’s interior game.

A 28-point lead dwindled to 16, as Baron spent much of the final half on the bench. Fordham shot nearly 43 percent in the second half, but the result never appeared in doubt. In the end, URI had too much firepower for an outmanned and outgunned Fordham squad. In a season that has seen its share of overtime games and first half deficits, coach Baron stressed the importance of leading wire to wire.

"We were down against UMass and St. Bonaventure, so we’re trying to put two halves together," Jim Baron said. "I felt we did a much better job of doing that." James scored 9 of his 10 points in the second half, and Baron added 10 to his total.

Now, with Fordham in the rear view mirror, the next challenge awaits. Come Wednesday, when Dayton rolls into town, they will face a Flyers squad that will be neither outmanned nor outgunned. "It’s going to be crazy [against Dayton]," Seawright said.
The biggest news here is that Dayton lost to St. Louis, which means the Rams are only one game back of first place in the A-10. If they can win out, which would include a victory over Dayton, and somehow manage to win the A-10, they will most likely secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Of course to win the Atlantic-10, they would not only have to win out, but they would also need Xavier to lose another game as well, since they lost to Xavier early this season. Getting back to the victory against Fordham, it really tells us nothing about URI, since Fordham is the worst team not in a mid-major or small conference in the country. They are ranked 321st in the nation out of 344 teams behind the like of independent schools like Houston Baptist and SIU Edwardsville. In fact, Bryant College here in RI is ranked 323rd, so the the victory over Fordham is about as meaningless as a victory over Bryant would be. Oh, and yes that is the same Bryant College that lost to 1-26 NJIT to help them break their 51 game losing streak. That should tell you just how BAD this Fordham team is. URI probably should have beat them by at least 30. Hopefully, they were taking it easy on the other Rams from Fordham.
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