In another “so close yet so far” game – the fifth such loss by our count – the Rhode Island Rams rallied in the second half but couldn’t finish the job, falling 55-52 to the George Mason Patriots. Trailing by 13 at the half, Rhody opened the second period with a 16-2 run to take a one-point lead. The lead lasted all of 21 seconds, however, and the Rams were never in front again as they dropped to 1-6 on the season, including an 0-3 home record. What does Rhody have to do to win a home game this year? Hell, what do they have to do to get their second win PERIOD? Let’s try and break it down.
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Xavier Munford – X turned in his second consecutive stellar performance, scoring following up his 33-point effort with a 24-point performance last night on 8-16 shooting. The Rams struggled to get the ball in his hands early on, but once they did it was showtime once again. Munford is now in the top 100 in the country in scoring (T-81) and is a favorite for A-10 Player of the Week. Rhody needs to ride his hot hand as long as they possibly can.
2. Turnovers – Rhody committed a season-low six turnovers in this one, including just TWO unforced errors. That stat becomes even more impressive when you consider the fact that George Mason put on full court pressure after every made basket. We knew ball control would be huge in this one, and there’s no doubt that Hurley stressed it coming into the contest. Limiting the mistakes were a huge key in helping URI stay close for most of the game.
3. Jordan Hare’s Shot Blocking – Let’s just look at the numbers for a minute. First in the A-10 in blocks. NINTH IN THE COUNTRY in blocks, and second among freshman nationally, behind only Chris Obekpa of St. John’s. A lot of fans (present company included) have high hopes for the freshman, but who would have thought that he would be THIS prolific down low in just seven games? He certainly has other areas of his game to work on, but if Hare has made this level of progress so far, we can’t wait for his career to develop at URI.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Free Throws – Free throw shooting last night was… a disaster. And that’s putting it mildly. The Rams left 13 points at the line and shot just 50% for the night. Scoring from the foul line has been an ongoing struggle for Rhody this year, and they’re now averaging a putrid 60% from the stripe as a team. Only ONE player (Andre Malone) is shooting over 75% for the year, and the other four starters are ALL shooting below 60%. It’s starting to border on scary at this point – Hurley and Co. are likely making this a top priority, because it’s literally costing them wins.
2. Second-Chance Points – 22-5. That was the difference in second-chance points last night, as the Rams once again struggled on the glass – especially the defensive glass. Rhody was out-rebounded 41-26, and allowed Mason to pull down 14 offensive boards. Granted, the Patriots are a big team and we kind of saw this one coming, but a rebounding margin that large certainly raises a red flag.
3. Fatigue – This issue will likely not be unique to just Rhode Island, but to most teams that have the displeasure of facing George Mason this season. They go DEEP into their bench (11 players saw minutes for the Patriots last night), and they’ll run most teams ragged by the time the waning minutes of the second half roll around, but especially a team like the Rams that has depth issues. Who knows if the fatigue played into the late-game issues again last night, but it sure didn’t help.
All in all, when breaking down the numbers, it’s almost amazing that the Rams didn’t get completely blown out in this one. Between the shooting percentages, the rebounding and the free throws, it really is a testament to how much the Rams will fight to stay in every game. They seem to be a team loaded with intangibles – now if they can just improve on some of the tangibles, they’ll be in much better shape for when conference play rolls around.