If you thought the Seton Hall loss was tough to swallow, you likely needed the Heimlich Maneuver for this one. A three-pointer from Loyola’s Robert Olson sent the game into overtime, where the Rams would go on to squander even more chances en route to a 58-54 loss to the Greyhounds at the Ryan Center. Rhody now sits at 0-5 and is desperately seeking a win. So what do they need to do to get one? Let’s take a look:
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Jordan Hare – Hare was the most obvious bright spot last night. In an absolute breakout game, the freshman came up big on both ends of the floor, mixing in some of his best offense along with an unreal performance on the glass. Hare scored eight points on 3-5 shooting and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds. Seven (!) of those rebounds came on the offensive end, including one that resulted in a monstrous put-back dunk. If that wasn’t enough, he also blocked a career-high seven shots. One of the more heady plays of the game belongs to Hare as well – late in the second half, Loyola’s Julius Brooks had a seemingly wide open dunk on the break. Hare swept in and committed a clean hard foul, resulting in Brooks missing the dunk and having to earn the two points at the line. He hit just one of two, keeping Rhody on top 48-47 with 20 seconds left.
2. Front Court Play – It wasn’t just Hare (although he was a big part of it). All of Rhody’s big men had solid games, most notably Ryan Brooks. Although he only scored one point, Brooks chipped in with six rebounds and two blocks of his own in 23 minutes. As a team, the Rams blocked 12 shots and tallied 45 rebounds – 19 of them on the offensive end. The inside presence that was somewhat lacking in the first four games is staring to take shape.
3. Defense – For a team that struggles to put points on the board (more on that in a moment), a strong defensive effort is key to Rhody eventually landing in the W column. And through the first five games, we’ve seen the Rams’ defensive work vastly improve over last season. Last night, Rhody held Loyola to just 34% shooting, and only 20% from thee-point range. Obviously there was a lapse on the final play of regulation, but overall, it’s hard to be upset with the full body of work that the Rams are displaying night in and night out. This defense will win them games this season. Count on it.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Winning – Upside this and bright spot that is all well and good. But no one likes losing, and there comes a point when harping on the positives becomes tiresome and you just want to see a WIN. Granted, no one was looking at this season with any sort of post-season aspirations or anything like that, but no one likes losing – no exceptions. In fact, it’s pretty easy to tell that Dan Hurley hates losing. He indicated last night that no Rhode Island players would be available to the media after the game because they were devastated following the loss. This team needs a win. Badly.
2. Points – And if they’re going to win, they need to score. The Rams have yet to break the 60-point mark this season, and are 336th in all of Division I in scoring (54.4 PPG). The defense is stout, but the offense might not have the scorers Rhody needs to put up double-digits wins this year. The return of Nik Malesevic was a welcome sign as he led all Rams with 16 points. But URI shot just 34% from the field last night, and 18% from three. They rank a similarly low 332nd in D-I in shooting percentage, and if they can’t hit 60 points in 45 minutes, will they ever get there?
3. Free Throws – 50% just doesn’t cut it. Rhody shot 10-20 from the stripe last night, and several of those free throws could have put the game away late in regulation. The two biggest offenders were Malesevic and Hare, who shot a combined 4-12 from the line. If Rhody continually wants the ball in the hands of those two guys, they have to start making the freebies. It will also go a long way towards closing out games in the final minutes.
Next up for the Rams is a road contest against the Auburn Tigers. The Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic was no friend to the Rams, where they finished 0-4. But now that it’s behind them, Rhody is poised for a breakout! ….