Rhode Island suffered their fourth loss in as many games last night, dropping them to 0-4 following a 60-55 loss to Seton Hall in the final minute. Yes, it was heartbreaking. But after having a day to reflect, we still see a good amount of positives and certainly some gradual improvement from game-to-game. The schedule is about to get a little less treacherous, so the first win of the season can’t be too far away. Until then, let’s dissect:
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Mike Powell – After a rocky first two games, Powell came alive at Mohegan, culminating in his best performance so far last night. He was on fire from three-point range, burying 5-6 from deep, with nearly all of them coming in clutch situations with the shot clock near expiration. Overall, Powell shot 6-10 from the floor and 2-3 from the line, tallying 19 points. The 5’11” point guard also came up with five rebounds. Getting him going is complete – keeping him going is key to Rhody’s success.
2. Shooting – It hasn’t been just Powell, however. The shots are starting to fall for the entire Rhody squad. The Rams shot 44% as a team from the floor last night, including 40% from three. For the season, URI is shooting 37% from the field; still not great, but it has been improving over the past two games, and we should continue to see a statistical correction in this category to make up for two poor games to start the season.
3. Jordan Hare – It’s hard understand the case for a guy who has only scored a handful of points as being a bright spot unless you’ve watched all four games this season. Hare has yet to fully put it together in terms of a solid game on both offense and defense, but his progress through the first four games has definitely been noticed. He’s establishing himself as a shot blocker down low, and his offense is coming along as well, especially around the rim. He certainly hasn’t played his best game in a Rhody uniform as of yet, but expect his playing time to increase as the season moves forward.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Finishing – This one doesn’t really require much analysis. Just look at the facts: Rhody did not trail for the first 19 minutes and 23 seconds of this game. They were up eight with 6:11 to play. Yes, the game was technically lost in the last 37 seconds, but Rhody scored just five points on one field goal in the final 10 and a half minutes. And that one bucket was a Hail Mary 18-footer from Ryan Brooks as the shot clock expired. The Rams committed an inexcusable THREE shot clock violations in the final 5:02, the final one would result in the go-ahead basket for Seton Hall. Simply put, this cannot happen. Yes, the Pirates made defensive adjustments to clamp down on the Rhody guards, but there’s plenty of blame to go around when mistakes this glaring happen in a close loss.
2. Interior Defense – Defending the opposition’s front court is going to be a recurring problem this season, and the same issues were on display again last night. The Rams got torched by 6’9″, 290 pound Gene “Don’t Call Me Jeff” Teague, allowing him to go for 21 points on 7-11 shooting. Rhody simply could stop him, and they struggled to play good defense without fouling. Both Hare and Mike Aaman picked up four personals each, and Ryan Brooks tallied three fouls. This may get slightly better with coaching, but it seems as though the Rams don’t have enough bodies to be competitive down low. They’re going to have to find ways to win without that presence.
3. Nikola Malesevic – Here we go again. Nik was suspended for last night’s game due to an unspecified violation of team rules. If this was a one-time occurrence, it could likely be shrugged off relatively quickly. But this is the second full-game suspension Nik has faced in his URI career, the first coming last year in a game versus Charlotte at the hands of then coach Jim Baron. This doesn’t include the eight games Malesevic missed last year due to breaking his hand after punching a wall, nor does it count the numerous times he was benched to start games last season for various disciplinary reasons. Hurley declined to elaborate on the latest violation, but being that the games were playing INSIDE A CASINO, it’s not hard to speculate a reason. It has now become an issue that transcends coaching and leadership personnel, which is even more concerning. As a senior, Nik should be setting an example, but instead things like this are happening. However minor the issue may or may not have been is not relevant. He let his teammates and the fans down, and he only has 25 or so games left here to try and get it together.
The Rams are now off until after Thanksgiving, returning to the confines of the Ryan Center on Friday to take on Loyola (MD). We’ll have much more on that one leading up to the holiday as Rhody tries to bounce back from a tough stretch.