Make no mistake about it: most Ram fans are not hanging their heads after yesterday’s loss to #4 Ohio State. Even at 0-3, the promise of brighter things that lie ahead is being realized, and it was especially noticed in a 40-minute effort against a clearly superior team. However, the Rams are still looking for their first win of the season, so we can’t classify it as all rainbows and roses just yet. Let’s have a look at a few things we noticed on our trip to Mohegan yesterday:
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Dan Hurley – Through the first two games we haven’t given Hurley enough love in the recaps, but it needs to be pointed out that this team has been making very noticeable strides so far. The defense is vastly improved a year ago, and the defensive problems in transition that we pointed out against Virginia Tech last week were corrected. Hurley is also adjusting his offensive schemes to fit the players he has, which for a new coach is always a work in progress. Through the first two games, the offensive coaching couldn’t be classified as perfect by any stretch, but it has gotten better game after game. If anyone has any objections to Hurley leading this team into the next era of URI basketball… well, take some advice from the Beastie Boys.
2. Team Confidence – It’s hard to instill confidence in a team that has lost their first three contests by an average of 14 points per game, but the swagger can be seen. It showed after every break in the action yesterday. After every steal. After every dunk, blocked shot, and made three-pointer. This team works hard, they work together, and they know wins will come. And once they start coming, it’s only going to build from there.
3. Assists – One of Rhody’s clear deficiencies through the first two games was sharing the ball. The Rams has six assists in game one, and slipped to just four in game two. The most any player had in either game was 3. But yesterday, URI, and Mike Powell specifically, started to move the ball a lot better. Powell led the Rhody attack with six assists, a large portion of the team’s 9 dimes on the day. He played by far his best game of the season, adding 10 points and committing just two turnovers as he was on the floor for all but the final few seconds.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Interior Play – Unless Ifeanyi Onyekaba is granted a waiver to play this season, Rhode Island is going to struggle inside all season long. Ryan Brooks, Jordan Hare, and Mike Aaman combined for only 8 points at the center position, and the Buckeyes held a 32-21 edge in rebounding. Mixed in with that was a 12-4 edge on the offensive glass, leading to 16 second-change points for OSU to just seven for Rhody. The good news is Ohio State is one of the better front-court teams the Rams will face all season.
2. The Bench – Depth is going to be an issue all year, but it would really give URI a boost if the few guys they have coming off the bench could chip in with some points. Rhody has yet to get more than eight points total from their bench players in a game this season, and they only put up six yesterday, four of them from Jordan Hare. In a team that struggles to find scorers at times, it makes it that much harder when you can’t rely on your reserves to put the ball in the basket.
3. T.J. Buchanan – T.J. sat out yesterday’s game, and he’s continuing to deal with a toe injury that has been persistent for a while. The Rams can use his defensive presence, his energy, and obviously just another body helps tremendously. Buchanan’s status for today’s game is still questionable, but Rhody could certainly use him back sooner rather than later. The fact that the injury seems to be of the lingering variety is a bit concerning.
URI gets right back at it tonight as they play another game at Mohegan as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. They’ll be taking on Seton Hall in a consolation match-up before leaving the majestic town of Uncasville, Connecticut. More on this one to come!