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Rhode Island Rams vs. Massachusetts Minutemen Final: UMass gets a 60-56 teeth clenching win over rival Rhode Island

Despite foul trouble, Maxie Esho still managed to score 18 points and lead the Minutemen to victory.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

This will forever be known as the game where Zach Coleman grew up. The redshirt freshman, who averages just 2.2 points per game, came into the game at the 9:15 mark for Maxie Esho who picked up his fourth foul. Esho was an offensive monster and was carrying the load. Esho would finish as the leading scorer with 18.

Donte Clark made a tough layup to cut the URI lead to 43-42. Then Coleman checked in and immediately turned into vintage PACMAN Jones at his favorite gentlemen's club. He would score 11 of UMass' next 15 points, including back-to-back threes to tie it at 53. He also had a circus jumper as the shot clock hit zero to give UMass a 57-53 lead with 3:17 remaining. Coleman finished second in scoring for UMass with 13.

The game then turned into a mix of free throws, turnovers, missed shots, and for the Rams broken dreams. After Gilvydas Biruta made a floater in the lane, the Minutemen countered with two offensive rebounds on their end and ended with Donte Clark going to the line and hitting both. That would seal the deal as T.J. Buchanan turned it over on the next URI possession and Trey Davis hitting one of his two to seal the 60-56 victory.

Maxie Esho was a beast inside with three blocks on the defensive end to go along with his 18 points. Even more impressive as his 10-12 performance from the line. He might have went for 30 if he didn't sit for eight minutes down the stretch because of fouls. Cady Lalanne was also plagued with fouls, one of the rare games where both he and Esho got into trouble. Lalanne made some beautiful post moves but only finished with four points but was an anchor defensively with 10 boards and a block with many altered shots to boot.

The A-10's leading scorer was held in check for most of the game as E.C. Matthews finished with just 11 points and six boards. He spent most of the game jawing at UMass players as he seemed to get swept up in the rivalry, A disappointing game for him and the NBA scouts that were in attendance to see him. Hopefully they took note of Lalanne and Esho.

Rhode Island started the game off as hot as you can, hitting their first six shots from the floor and jumping out to an early 13-7 lead.

The Rams would cool off and become very sloppy on offense, taking quick shots often without there being one pass in the halfcourt. That and turnovers allowed UMass to creep back into the game, powered by Esho's 12 first half points. UMass would get their first lead of the game with 55 seconds left in the game as Demetrius Dyson hit one free throw to give UMass a 28-27 lead at halftime.

Trey Davis tied his season high of seven assists today but scored just three points to go along with it. Donte Clark on the other hand picked up Davis' scoring drought with 10 points and added a steal. Clark made some impressive baskets inside especially the kiss of the glass at the 4:16 mark to give UMass a 55-53 advantage. Not to mention his two free throws at the end of the game that all but sealed the win.

While Rhode Island shot nearly ten percent better from the floor than the Minutemen, it was the volume that mattered more. UMass finished 20-55 while URI was just 19-41. The Minutemen were able to do this by killing the Rams on the boards and forcing turnovers. UMass had 18 offensive rebounds compared to URI's seven. All of those second chances can add up in a hurry. The Ram's also committed 15 turnovers while UMass limited theirs to just 10. With UMass only having six steals most of these turnovers were mental errors on the Rams part. Although UMass did turn on the pressure pretty well.

Other than a big offensive rebound to set up Clark's game sealing free throws, Derrick Gordon had a relatively quiet game. He recorded just five points and three boards. Even more puzzling were his zero assists and zero steals to go along with three turnovers. His hustle and defense were still there but UMass has come to expect more from Gordon at this point.

The rest of the bench for UMass played solid minutes even though they didn't fill up the stat sheet. Jabarie Hinds played his usual reckless minutes at the point with included an acrobatic layup from his hip pocket as he finished with four points. Dyson scored just one point and missed a gimmie inside but other than that continued to play solid team ball. Tyler Bergantino also missed an easy layup inside but was able to flush down another for two points. The last bench player, C.J. Anderson, was pretty much a non factor. Kellogg played all ten guys within the first eight minutes of the game and each saw some minutes at important stretches,

Every conference game for UMass is pretty much a must win at this point and today was extra special beating a rival. UMass is now 10-8 (3-2) while URI drops to 11-5 (3-2). UMass will travel to a down St. Joe's team, 7-8 (1-3), on Wednesday.