New era, similar results. The Rhode Island Rams played well, especially on defense, but ran out of gas in the waning minutes and dropped a 67-55 decision to Norfolk State in Kingston. Norfolk State was simply a better team tonight. They’re a big, tough squad that plays swarming full-court defense – think Rhody with a lot more size. The Rams jumped out to a 30-25 lead at the half, but Norfolk State adjusted, coming out of the locker room and dropping the first 8 points of the second frame to go up 33-30. They expanded the lead to 38-33 before Rhody battled back. The game was back and forth for a while, but ultimately fatigue and poor free throw shooting down the stretch (likely a product of the fatigue) dropped the Rams to 0-1.
There are some definite positives to build on, however. Nikola Malesevic played one of the best games we’ve seen him play, pouring in a career-high 25 points before fouling out late. He converted a four-point play midway through the second half to put Rhody up 47-42 before the offense started to sputter. The Spartans went on a 7-0 run after that to go up 49-47 and it was all downhill from there. URI had no answer for Brandon Goode, the new 7’0″ Norfolk State starter, as he put up a double-double in his new role. That said, Ryan Brooks played incredibly well. Yes, you read that right. Ryan Brooks. He chipped in with eight rebounds and four (!) blocked shots, to go along with a handful of hustle plays. If Tommy Heinsohn was broadcasting this one, Brooks would have had more Tommy Points than Walter McCarty.
But depth is clearly an issue right now for Rhody. Powell, Munford, Malone and Malesevic played almost the entire game, and guys were coming up hobbling all over the place. Nik had to leave the game with an ankle injury (but returned), Munford came out with a knee injury, and Mike Aaman was seen limping around.
All in all, it’s just one game against a better than expected (at least better than we expected) Norfolk State team. The Rams can’t dwell on this one too long as Virginia Tech and Ohio State wait in the wings. We’ll have a full breakdown of this one tomorrow as we try to explore the adjustments Rhody needs to make. Until then, leave your thoughts on this tough loss in the comments!