PHILADELPHIA — Fatts Russell authored one of the great performances in University of Rhode Island men’s basketball history during his last trip to Hagan Arena.

No member of the Rams has ever scored more points in a true road game. A repeat on Wednesday night against Saint Joseph’s would likely see URI sweep its first two Atlantic 10 opponents away from Kingston.

The junior guard and Philadelphia native was unconscious in an overtime victory against the Hawks last season, piling up 41 points in an 86-85 victory. The Rams are 3-0 in games in which Russell has made a homecoming over the last two seasons, and he’s been strong in all three outings. Russell averages 23.7 points on 46.7% shooting against Saint Joseph’s and La Salle in their home buildings, making himself rather comfortable in front of family and friends in the bleachers.

“I look forward to it,” Russell said. “Not only because it’s another game, but my family is going to be there. All my friends who I haven’t seen in a long time. That always gives me a little motivation.”

Russell was a different player when URI visited the Hawks late in 2018-19. He was a struggling player. He shot less than 23% from 3-point range and suffered through some growing pains as a sophomore, going from bench piece on an NCAA Tournament team to starring role. Russell has put it all together a few short months later, producing unquestionably the best season by any member of the Rams in 2019-20.

“He’s been a great leader,” URI coach David Cox said. “He’s been producing at both ends of the floor, whether it’s stealing the ball or putting the ball in the basket or assisting. If he can continue to play at the level he’s been playing at and continue to lead at the level he’s led at, we should be OK.”

URI (10-5 overall, 2-1 Atlantic 10) netted its finest victory of the season last time out, a 65-56 boxing match at VCU. The Rams vaulted themselves back onto the NCAA at-large radar thanks to 21 points from Jeff Dowtin and one of their most determined defensive efforts of the season. URI allowed just 0.79 points per possession against VCU — only North Texas and Providence have scored fewer.

“We stuck to the game plan,” Cox said. “We were physical. I thought our rotations were pretty good. The hedging by our big men was outstanding.”

Advanced scouting will be key in this one, because Saint Joseph’s (3-13, 0-4) is a different team under first-year coach Billy Lange. The Hawks are rebuilding after unceremoniously showing Phil Martelli the door last offseason, ending his 24-year tenure on Hawk Hill after a 14-19 finish. Martelli has moved on as Juwan Howard’s top assistant at Michigan and Saint Joseph’s is attempting to snap out of a 1-12 funk over the last two months.

It will be worthwhile to see if the Rams have learned their lesson from a Jan. 2 loss at Brown University, particularly coming off Saturday’s high. URI’s players admitted to overlooking the Bears and were gashed from 3-point range in an 85-75 defeat, one that rocked the Rams in terms of their NET ranking. A loss to the Hawks would be even more damaging in terms of earning a chance to play deep into March.

“They can beat anybody any given night,” Russell said. “We can’t disrespect our opponent. We have to come and be focused for every game.”

bkoch@providencejournal.com

On Twitter: @BillKoch25