In a game that never felt close, even when Rhody cut the Virginia Tech lead to four towards the end of the first half, the Rams dropped to 0-2 with a 69-50 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg. The game started off poorly as URI missed their first seven shots from the field (four of them from three point range – this was a theme) and fell behind 13-0 quickly. Rhody was never able to recover. Despite hanging with Virginia Tech the rest of the way and only being outscored 56-50 in the final 35 minutes, the Ram offense couldn’t push themselves over the hump, and now they’re dangerously close to falling to 0-3 with Ohio State looming on the horizon.
Rhode Island certainly has a lot to work on after this one. Their three point shooting was, well, horrid, but a lot of that had to do with shot selection. Questionable shooting decisions led to Virginia Tech getting out in transition way too many times, and the URI defense had problems recovering to the Hokies quick and efficient ball movement. Once again, the Rams had just one star on offense – this time Xavier Munford – and that’s proving to not be enough on a team that’s struggling to find points so far in the young season.
But let’s touch on some positives: first, Munford. He was absolutely spectacular tonight, slashing to the basket, moving off well-designed screens and dazzling with some really nifty moves in the paint and around the basket. A lot of up-and-under layups, head fakes, body control plays – you name it. He finished with 24 points and absolutely carried the URI offense this evening. Parts of the Rhody defense were also great. When they could slow the Hokies down and make them run their set offense, the Rams did a great job not only forcing bad shots, but forcing them into one-and-done plays. Rhody’s defensive rebounding, led by Mike Aaman, kept the Virginia Tech offense at bay and gave URI a chance in this one. If they can improve their transition defense (and that might have to start by just plain scoring more on offense), they’ll certainly start to put up a few Ws. But for now, there’s plenty to work on and plenty to coach on both offense and defense. As the season progresses, we may start to realize that Rhody simply doesn’t have the players (yet – we repeat, yet) to be competitive this season. But let’s see what Hurley can do with this squad before we start freaking out – it’s been two games against two pretty good teams, after all.
Also of note, T.J. Buchanan collapsed in a heap clutching his ankle midway through the first half. He limped to his feet and was helped off to the locker room and did not return. Let’s hope it’s nothing too serious, and we’ll try to have an update on him tomorrow, along with much more from this one.