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James leads Rhode Island over Nevada in NIT 85-83

KINGSTON, R.I. (AP) — Delroy James has established a reputation for being one of the Atlantic 10's top offensive players.

The Rhode Island star was back at it on Monday night and also turned on the defense Monday night, helping the Rams beat Nevada 85-83 in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

James scored a career-high 34 points and locked up Luke Babbitt, Nevada's leading scorer and the WAC player of the year.

"They were able to match up with (Babbitt), athletically," Nevada coach Dave Carter said. "I thought they contested his shots and made it very difficult for him to score."

Babbitt entered as the eighth-leading scorer in the country with a 22.1 average, but finished with 14 points. He connected on only two of 14 shots — both in the second half — and scored 10 points at the free-throw line.

"He missed some easy ones that he normally would make," Carter said. "But sometimes when you're physical and you're able to contest shots and make guys work for it I think that's what they did tonight."

As a result, the Rams (25-9) will play a third-round game Wednesday at Virginia Tech, which eliminated Connecticut 65-63.

Brandon Fields led the Wolf Pack (21-13) with 25 points, while Keith Cothran added 16 for Rhode Island and teammate Lamonte Ulmer grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.

"(Babbitt) is a very good player a top 20 pick," James said. "I tried to make it a rough night for him. If you play hard on defense, you have to attack on offense."

James drained one of his five 3-point shots to spark a 24-16 run and give the Rams their largest lead of the first half at 36-26.

Fields then scored seven consecutive points for Nevada to forge a 37-37 tie, but Rhode Island's Will Martell and Stevie Mejia combined to score five straight points for a 42-37 halftime lead.

James' layup with 4:49 left in regulation gave Rhode Island a seemingly comfortable 74-64 lead. But the Wolf Pack connected on all 10 of their free-throw attempts down the stretch and Fields drained a 3-point shot with 5.2 seconds left to pull Nevada within 84-83.

Cothran then sank one of two free-throw attempts and Nevada threw the ball away on its ensuing possession. That turnover was the Wolf Pack's 16th, and Rhode Island capitalized by scoring 23 points off Nevada's miscues.

Conversely, Rhode Island committed only two turnovers.

"I don't think I've ever been involved in a game where my team only made two turnovers," Rams coach Jim Baron said. "That shows we made good decisions."