AUBURN — Rhode Island guard Xavier Munford scored 33 points to lead the Rams to a 79-72, double-overtime victory on the road at Auburn Sunday afternoon.
Munford’s desperation 3 at the buzzer at the end of the first overtime kept
the Rams alive and forced another overtime period. The Rams outscored the Tigers 13-6 in the game’s second overtime to earn the victory.
Senior forward Nikola Malesevic scored 19 points for Rhode Island, and former Auburn player Andre Malone recorded 13 points and 8 rebounds for the Rams.
The win marks Rhode Island’s first victory of the season, lifting the Rams’ record to 1-5. With the loss, Auburn drops to 2-4 on the year.
“It’s a relief,” said Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley. “You feel like now getting that zero out from in front of your name, maybe it validates what you’re doing. If we came in here 4-1, this would’ve been a great win. On the road in the SEC, it’s a great win.”
Freshman guard Jordan Price led the Tigers with 19 points off of the bench, shooting 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the losing effort. Forward Noel Johnson added 13 points for the Tigers.
Auburn led, 65-61, with 29 seconds to play in the first overtime period before Munford led the Rams on a comeback effort in the waning moments. Munford’s jump shot cut the lead to two with 23 seconds to play. Johnson hit one free throw for the Tigers moments later but missed a second, giving Munford and the Rams a chance to tie the game with 11 seconds remaining.
Munford’s 3-point shot at the buzzer tied the game at 66, and the Rams went on to control the pace and win in the second overtime.
“Everybody’s happy,” Munford said. “It was like a curse we were in, so it felt good to break the curse and start winning. We won our first game, so we’re just going to keep winning and go on a streak from here on out.”
Auburn head coach
Tony Barbee said that the Tigers were trying to foul before Munford’s last-second shot.
“We put ourselves in a chance to win in overtime and then we didn’t execute,” Barbee said. “We were up three with seven seconds to go. We came out of timeout where we say that we’re fouling as soon as they cross half court, and we don’t foul.
“There’s your game. It would’ve been 2 seconds on the clock. We’re up three and they’re shooting two free throws. We didn’t execute, and it was my veteran group.”
The Tigers led for most of the contest, holding a 37-32 lead at halftime. The Rams took their first lead of the game on a Malesevic lay-in with just 4:31 to play in regulation.
A 10-2 Auburn run gave the Tigers a 22-11 lead with 11:49 to play in the half, but the Rams settled in to cut the lead to five points by halftime before making their second-half surge.
Rhode Island’s defense held Auburn senior guard Frankie Sullivan to just seven points in 45 minutes of playing time. Sullivan entered the game averaging 20.6 points per game this season.
The Rams finished with 30 points of off turnovers, compared to Auburn’s 13.
“We had 19 turnovers to a team that pressed us maybe once or twice,” Barbee said. “We had 19 turnovers and those turnovers turned into 30 points for them. A team that struggles rebounding the ball outrebounds us, and 13 of their points come on second-chance points.
“We have a long way to go.”