Senior forward Mason Choice scored a season-high 17 points in his first game back from a slight concussion and the Rhode Island College men’s basketball team improved to 9-0, the best start in program history since 1970-71, after a 57-47 victory over Worcester Polytechnic Institute at the Murray Center on Thursday, Dec. 8.
The Anchormen’s tenacious defense set the tone in a dominating victory, limiting WPI to a season-low 47 points on 34 percent (19-of-56) shooting from the floor and outrebounded the Engineers, 41-32. WPI came into the game as the 15th ranked D-III team in the country, averaging 86 points per game. Despite playing outstanding defense, the Anchormen struggled offensively, shooting 40 percent (20-of-50) from the floor and committed 15 turnovers.
In addition to a Choice’s efforts, which included 13 points in the second half, the Anchormen got contributions from senior center Mike Akinrola and junior guard Tahrike Carter who added 14 and 12 points respectively. Freshman guard Brandon Hill made an impact with a career-high eight points off the bench in 10 minutes off the bench.
WPI was led by senior guard David Brown, who scored a game-high 11 points in the first half and finished with a team-high 13 points. Freshman guard Marco Coppola, who entered the contest averaging a team-high 17 points per game this season, was limited to just 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting (including just 1-of-7 from 3-point range), thanks in large part to an outstanding individual defensive effort by Carter, who was matched up one-on-one with Coppola.
RIC jumped out to an early 11-3 lead with 15:40 remaining after a 3-pointer from Carter and extended its lead to 13 points, 23-10, with just over 11 minutes to play. WPI responded by playing shutdown defense for the remainder of the half, going on a 14-4 run to close out the half. RIC took a 27-24 lead into the break.
WPI came back with a run to start the second half, tying the game at 31-31 with 15:47 remaining after a 3-pointer from freshman guard Sam Longwell. A Coppola jumper gave WPI their largest lead of the game, 37-34, with 11:50 remaining.
Akinrola connected on a layup with 11:23 remaining to pull RIC within one and Choice splashed a mid-range jumper with 10:39 remaining to make it 38-37. A three-point play from Choice put RIC up, 41-37, with 9:01 on the clock and the Anchormen never looked back, holding on to the lead for the remainder of the game. RIC outscored the Engineers, 19-10, over the final 10 minutes, with 13 of those points coming at the charity stripe.
RIC suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday, Dec. 10 at the hands of Little East Conference opponent Eastern Connecticut State, 70-59.