KINGSTON, R.I. (AP) — Fats Russell scored 22 points, Jeff Dowtin added 21 and Rhode Island turned a hot first half into a 93-79 win over Alabama on Friday night.
Cyril Langevine added 12 points and a career-high six assists for the Rams (2-1), who beat the first Southeastern Conference team to play in the Ryan Center. Tyrese Martin and Jacob Toppin had 11 points each.
Kira Lewis Jr. led the Crimson Tide (1-2) with 21 points and Herbert Jones added 17.
Dowtin made all six of his shots in the first half and scored 15 points to help Rhode Island build a 50-33 lead. Russell added 12 points, five rebounds and three assists with the Rams shooting 56%, going 5 of 12 from 3-point range. Alabama was held to 39% shooting, including 0 for 10 from 3-point range. Jones and Lewis Jr. combined to score 21 of Alabama’s 33 points.
Rhode Island forced 13 Alabama turnovers and scored 19 points off turnovers.
“I don't think we handed adversity well in the first half. Our shots weren't falling – I think we went 0-for-10 from three – and had a bunch of turnovers and couldn't' hit our free throws,” first-year Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “I think we let it affect our effort on the defensive end. If we were down at the half by six or eight points instead of 17, then we have a better chance to win that game.
“We have got a lot to learn. I think the schedule we are playing is a good one – we are challenging ourselves early and it will make us better."
Lewis Jr. had back-to-back layups and Jaden Shackelford hit a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 run early in the second half to cut the deficit to 58-48. The difference stayed around 10 until Alex Reese and John Petty Jr., had consecutives 3s and Alabama was within 74-67 with 7:20 to play.
Javian Davis had a three-point play and a layup with 3:28 to go to pull the Tide within 81-75 but the Rams, starting with Russell’s four free throws, scored the next 12 points to ice the game.
“We were able to cut it to five, but they finished on a 12-0 run and we made a couple of bad fouls during that stretch,” Oats said. I thought our guys did a pretty good job of staying with it in the second half. We just didn't have anything left.”
Alabama: The Nate Oats era got off to a rough start in the Crimson Tide’s opener, losing 81-80 to Penn for their first season-opening home loss since a 61-55 defeat to Cornell on Nov. 14, 2009. It was a much-anticipated debut as the school announced a turnout of 1,830 students for the third most total for a November home game in the past 10 years. Oats got his first win on Monday when freshmen Javian Davis and Jaden Shackelford combined for 36 points in a 78-59 victory over Florida Atlantic.
Rhode Island: Alabama is the first SEC team to play at the Ryan Center. ... The Rams were picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll after returning 87% of their scoring from a team that won six of seven games to close last season. Coach David Cox is in his second season at the helm after going 18-15 despite losing six seniors heading into the 2018-19 season.
THE FINAL NUMBERS
Alabama shot 57% in the second half, despite missing four straight shots after pulling within five, and went 5 of 12 from 3-point range. The Tide’s final numbers, 47% shooting, 5 of 22 behind the arc and 22 turnovers that were turned into 33 points.
"We have to quit turning over the ball,” Oats said. “We had way too many turnovers in the first half. When we didn't turn the ball over, we were able to get our defense set and started playing a little better on that end of the floor. That really helped us make the comeback in the second half.”
Rhode Island shot 48% in the second half, 52% for the game, and was just 1 of 5 from distance after intermission. The Rams were outrebounded 40-31.
Alabama: Hosts Furman on Tuesday in a campus game for the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Crimson Tide will then face No. 6 North Carolina on Nov. 27 in the Bahamas.
Rhode Island: The Rams are busy next week, playing Nicholls on Tuesday, followed by North Texas on Friday and No. 23 LSU on Saturday.
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