Sunday, February 15, 2009

URI Defeats St. Louis Behind The Strong Play of Lamonte Ulmer

Lamonte Ulmer was a beast yesterday, shooting 8 of 9 from the field to score 18 points to help URI defeat St. Louis, 69-61, via ProJo Sports:

It took Lamonte Ulmer well into his third year with the University of Rhode Island basketball team to earn a starting spot. Now that he has it, Ulmer's playing as if he wants to keep it.

The junior forward from Connecticut was outstanding Saturday, turning in one of his best all-around efforts yet as he led the Rams to a 69-61 triumph over Saint Louis at the Ryan Center. Ulmer had 18 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals as he helped Rhode Island go wire-to-wire in winningt he game. Kahiem Seawright added a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards and Jimmy Baron added 11 points for the Rams, who won for the sixth time in seven starts.

Saint Louis, which saw its four-game winning streak snapped, played without its head coach, Rick Majerus. Majerus stayed home to be with his girlfriend, who was seriously injured in an auto accident. Porter Moser, the Billikens’ associate head coach, took over in Majerus’ absence. Moser felt the result had more to do with Ulmer being present than Majerus being absent. Moser said he simply carried out the game plan Majerus had set up. That plan was designed to focus on Baron and Seawright.

Ulmer is a tough match for the Billikens because of his size, at 6-feet-7, and his speed. He had his first career double-double at the Scotttrade Center last year when Saint Louis beat URI, 68-61. This time, he was even better. "I thought Ulmer was the difference. He had as good a game as I’ve seen him have on tape," Moser said. "It seems like he’s so long. He’s athletic and he plays passionately. He sure did tonight." "He plays with so much high energy," agreed Rhody coach Jim Baron. "We played him at the top of the press . . . And he attacked the glass."

After coming off the bench for so long and worrying about the starters setting the tempo for him, Ulmer now concentrates on pushing the pace from the start. "I feel like I have to start the game strong so the people who come off the bench can keep it going," he said. "I’m getting more comfortable with it."

Ulmer is averaging just over eight points a game. He is at 11.1 in the eight games since becoming a starter. The lanky forward has extended his shooting range to the point where he has made a couple 3-pointers in recent games, but his strength is still his inside game and his defense. His first two hoops yesterday were dunks off the break. Later in the first half, he had another dunk off a set play on which the Rams set a double screen for him and Seawright lofted an alley-oop pass from the top of the key.

By halftime, Ulmer had 12 points. The Rams also had their stamp on the game. URI had jumped out quickly, which was a focus, Baron said, after a brutal first half against St. Bonaventure in the previous outing. This time, URI jumped ahead, 8-0. Saint Louis got within 14-13 and 16-14. The first of two 3-pointers by Stevie Mejia, who had a nice game coming off the bench for URI (6 points, 5 assists) and then the Ulmer dunk off the Seawright pass, got the lead back to seven.

It was 32-25 at the half. Ulmer started the second half in style, with URI’s first two hoops, including another dunk. Saint Louis, which was led by freshman point guard Kwamain Mitchell’s 15 points, tried to hang in, but never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Ben Eaves, given his first chance to play in crunch time because Delroy James was not feeling well, was the one who put it away. He had five straight points, on a 15-footer and then a 3-pointer, to clinch Rhody’s seventh A-10 victory, equaling the team’s total for all last season.

URI also ran its record at the Ryan Center to 11-1, matching the most victories in one season in the building. Unlike last season, when the team folded when the stretch, everything is looking brighter, although the next opponent is UMass Wednesday in Amherst. "They got us twice last year," Baron pointed out. "So we’ve got to be ready for them this time."
Not having Coach Majerus on the St. Louis sidelines probably weakens their team a great deal, so I think URI caught a break with that. Hopefully his girlfriend is going to be OK though. We don't know what types of adjustment Majerus would have made if he was coaching and this is probably a completely different game if that is the case. This win just keeps URI's NCAA Tournament profile from looking worse at this point. They need to beat everyone on their schedule, with the exception of Dayton, so they can avoid having anymore bad losses on their resume. UMass can score some points on occasion, so URI will have to play strong defense to avoid getting into a shootout with them. The Rams are a far better team though and should win that game

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