Streaking Cavaliers top Thunder for sixth win in seven games


CLEVELAND — Darius Garland collected 23 points and 11 assists and rookie Evan Mobley had 15 points and a season-high 17 rebounds to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Oklahoma City Thunder 94-87 on Saturday night.

Jarrett Allen added 14 points and 13 rebounds for Cleveland, which built a 74-57 lead in the third quarter and never allowed the Thunder to pull closer than six points in the fourth. The Cavaliers have won six of their last seven.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Darius Garland (10) passes the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder's Josh Giddey (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 94-87. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced Oklahoma City across the board with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Kenrich Williams scored 12 points and Luguentz Dort had 10 points before being ejected for elbowing Kevin Love in the head.

Mobley, the third overall draft pick from USC, has nine double-doubles in 39 pro games. Garland posted his sixth double-double in the last seven games and is averaging 21.0 points and 12.3 assists during that timeframe.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Lauri Markkanen grimaces in pain after an injury in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland lost forward Lauri Markkanen to a sprained right ankle in the second quarter; he was helped to the locker room and did not return.

Dort received a flagrant 2 for striking Love after the whistle on a scramble for a loose ball. Love received a personal foul prior to absorbing the elbow.

The Thunder, who wrapped up a four-game road trip, have lost five straight and 10 of their last 11 games. Oklahoma City’s starting frontcourt of Dort, Darius Bazley and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl shot a combined 5 of 25 from the field.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Lamar Stevens (8) drives against Oklahoma City Thunder's Ty Jerome (16) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cedi Osman had 10 points off the bench for the Cavaliers, who went 18 of 35 from the foul line and missed 21 of 27 3-point attempts.

Cleveland jumped out to the largest lead of the first half at 47-37, but Oklahoma City answered with eight straight points heading into intermission, capped by a Gilgeous-Alexander 3-pointer.

Mobley scored seven points and Allen had six in the first quarter as Cleveland took a 24-22 lead. Bazley had four points and six rebounds for Oklahoma City.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Cedi Osman, right, loses control of the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder's Luguentz Dort (5) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Late arrival

The Thunder didn’t check into their downtown Cleveland hotel until 8 a.m. due to winter travel delays in Charlotte following their 121-98 loss to the Hornets on Friday.

Oklahoma City’s team bus became stuck on an icy road en route to the airport, forcing several members of its traveling party to disembark to help push it to safety. The Thunder also had to change planes at 5 a.m.

“It was grueling for the guys, but these experiences are a little unifying,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “When we got off the elevator at the hotel, people were already eating breakfast, so that kind of reinforced how long we’d been trying to get here.”

Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Allen (31) dunks the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder's Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (50) Darius Bazley (7) and in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)


Thunder: Oklahoma City is assured of finishing January with a losing record, marking the eighth straight month it has done so. … Rookie guard Vit Krejci (right ankle sprain), who has two points in nine minutes this season, missed his fifth straight game. … Guard Theo Maledon, center Aleksej Pokusevski and center Isaiah Roby are on G League assignments with the Oklahoma City Blue, along with two-way guard Paul Watson. … The Thunder lost at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for the first time since Jan. 29, 2017.

Cavaliers: Guard Rajon Rondo (right hamstring soreness) missed his sixth game in a row. Rondo has only appeared in three games since being acquired from the Lakers in a three-team trade on Jan. 3. … Guard Lamar Stevens (left knee soreness), who had started seven straight games prior to being hurt at Oklahoma City on Jan. 15, returned from a two-game absence. … Two-way guard RJ Nembhard scored 33 points for the Cleveland Charge of the G League earlier in the day at Raptors 905.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Isaac Okoro, right, passes against Oklahoma City Thunder's Darius Bazley, left, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Up next

Thunder: Host Chicago on Wednesday night.

Cavaliers: Host New York on Monday night.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Lauri Markkanen (24) passes over Oklahoma City Thunder's Kenrich Williams (34) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)


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University of RI plays American International College men’s basketball


SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Here were 40 minutes of evidence as to why the University of Rhode Island wanted a tune-up before jumping into Atlantic 10 play. 

The Rams looked like a team coming off a 20-day pause due to COVID-19. This late booking with American International resulted in a 70-55 victory for the hosts at the Ryan Center, and it wasn’t pretty. 

It was, however, to be expected. URI has been out of action since a Dec. 13 blowout win at Milwaukee due to multiple virus positives among players and staff. Nonconference games against Charleston and Brown were canceled prior to league postponements against Dayton and La Salle. 

“We didn’t anticipate having these types of breaks coming into the season,” URI coach David Cox said. “We thought it would be different. Obviously, the game today — it looked like we hadn’t played in a few weeks.  

“Extremely, extremely rusty out there on both ends of the floor. But it was imperative that we got this game in because we hadn’t played in three weeks. We needed to get the rust off before going on the road for our first two conference games.” 

The Rams committed 11 turnovers and were just 6-for-12 from the foul line in the first half against their Division II opposition. That general lack of sharpness plagued them to the final whistle. URI’s considerable physical advantages were enough to secure the right result in this one — the undersized Yellow Jackets finished at just 31.9% from the floor. 

More: URI men’s basketball finds an opponent for Sunday

More: COVID cancels URI-Charleston game 

URI head coach David Cox talks to his players on the bench during the second half of Sunday's game against AIC.

“If we started conference like that, it would have been ugly for us,” URI guard Malik Martin said. “I think we needed this game. We’ve got to have two more good practices going into Wednesday and we’ll be fine.” 

The Rams are now anticipating opening league play on Wednesday night at George Mason. There are a few points of study they’ll take into that one: 

Vaccination rate at 90 percent for Rams

URI (9-3) should be back to full strength entering this week. 

Antwan Walker was the lone member of the roster still in health and safety protocols as of Sunday. Cox said the reserve forward is expected back at practice on Monday and should be cleared prior to Wednesday’s tip. 

Martin disclosed he and fellow guard Ishmael El-Amin were among those who tested positive for the virus in December. He was asymptomatic but still forced to quarantine in his dorm room for an extended period.  

American International's Donovan Miller knocks the ball away from URI's Sebastian Thomas in first-half action on Sunday.

“Obviously it showed on the court today,” Martin said. “We were out of rhythm.” 

Cox estimated 90% of the Rams — based on a combined number of 20 players and staff members — are fully vaccinated. Up to five URI players will be eligible for booster shots in the immediate future. 

“Obviously the school now has a new mandate for young men and women to come back,” Cox said. “They have to get boosters if they qualify for it.” 

Makhi Mitchell, of URI, grabs a rebound during Sunday's nonleague game against AIC.

The Rams were one of what felt like a minority of programs that didn’t need a pause last season. URI was free to practice and play rescheduled games as they became available. Contingency plans in place for the better part of two years were finally put to the test. 

“Having a relatively mature group, I think they handled it extremely well,” Cox said. “They’re eager to get back out here on the court.” 

Finding an opponent

Cox described the process of making a date with AIC as “a mad scramble.” 

The Rams found out during their Friday practice La Salle was going to be forced to pull out of its scheduled trip to Kingston. URI wound up contacting the Yellow Jackets (5-7) after their own Northeast-10 game with Le Moyne was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns among the Dolphins. 

“We called every team we could possibly call,” Cox said. “We called a number of Division I teams and couldn’t get a bite or couldn’t make it work.  

“Late notice, New Year’s Day travel, money — all of those factors. We came up with the best that we could do here.” 

The Flyers were among the potential opponents. There were brief discussions between the Rams, Dayton and the conference after a corresponding Sunday postponement between the Flyers and St. Bonaventure. Dayton was unable to secure a charter or late commercial flight reservation to visit URI. 

Checking the numbers

Martin finished one point shy of a double-double, finishing with nine and pulling down 11 rebounds. 

The stat sheet was kind to him and a couple of fellow Rams in this one. El-Amin chipped in nine of his 14 points in the second half and connected on all but one of his five 3-point attempts. Makhi Mitchell was 7-for-8 from the field while collecting 19 points and eight rebounds. 

URI’s Jalen Carey hits a shot over American International’s Frankyn Batista in the second half on Sunday.

URI shot 48.1% in the first half but faded to 38.7% after the break. AIC found it particularly tough going through the opening 20 minutes, finishing at 25% from the field and 2-for-12 from 3-point range. Frankyn Batista totaled 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets while Carlos Hubb hit double figures with 13 points. 

The Rams improved to 4-0 all-time against AIC, winning the first meeting since the 1941-42 season. Frank Keaney was URI’s head coach and started 60-40 through his first 100 career games. Cox improved to 58-42 thanks to Sunday’s victory, hitting the century mark midway through his fourth season in charge.  

On Twitter: @BillKoch25 

The Rams' Ishmael Leggett is fouled by the Yellow Jackets' Jordan Vidal as he drives to the basket in the first half of Sunday's game.

AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL (55): Batista 6-19 2-2 14, Covington 0-1 0-0 0, Golding 0-4 0-0 0, Miller 1-6 0-0 2, Vidal 4-7 0-0 9, Hubb 5-12 1-2 13, Hicks 3-9 0-0 9, Jordan 2-4 0-0 4, Washington 0-6 2-4 2, Lopes 0-0 0-0 0, Weston 1-1 0-0 2; totals 22-69 5-8 55. RHODE ISLAND (70): Makhi.Mitchell 7-8 5-9 19, Makhe.Mitchell 0-4 2-2 2, El-Amin 5-6 0-0 14, Leggett 2-6 1-1 6, Sheppard 1-7 0-0 2, Martin 2-5 5-8 9, Carey 3-9 0-0 7, Thomas 1-3 0-0 2, Ayo-Faleye 1-5 0-0 2, Berry 3-5 0-0 7; totals 25-58 13-20 70.

       Halftime — Rhode Island 35-22. 3-Point Goals — American International 6-22 (Hicks 3-7, Hubb 2-8, Vidal 1-2, Golding 0-1, Batista 0-2, Miller 0-2), Rhode Island 7-22 (El-Amin 4-5, Carey 1-1, Berry 1-3, Leggett 1-4, Thomas 0-1, Ayo-Faleye 0-2, Martin 0-2, Sheppard 0-4). Rebounds — American International 34 (Batista 14), Rhode Island 46 (Martin 11). Assists — American International 14 (Batista, Miller, Vidal, Hubb, Jordan 2), Rhode Island 16 (Thomas 5). Total Fouls — American International 15, Rhode Island 10. Records — Rhode Island 9-3, American International 5-7. 

URI women postponed again

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — It will be at least another week before the University of Rhode Island women open their Atlantic 10 conference schedule. 

The Rams have had a second league game postponed, this time on Wednesday against Massachusetts. Both programs remain on pause due to COVID-19. 

The conference made the announcement on Sunday, exactly seven days before URI will travel to Fordham for a noon tip in the Bronx. The Rams have been idle since finishing their non-conference schedule on Dec. 19 with a victory over Boston University. 

URI improved to 10-3 thanks to a three-game winning streak, including the 54-44 triumph over the Terriers. The Rams won their first seven games of the season, dropped the next three and rebounded into the exam break. That momentum has been lost thanks to what is now an extended absence. 

New Year’s Day was supposed to mark the opening of URI’s league season. The Rams were set to welcome Dayton prior to reporting virus issues within their program. Those have yet to subside.  

— Bill Koch


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