Thanks to another stellar game from Xavier Munford and a break-out performance by Mike Aaman, the Rhode Island Rams picked up their second win of the season, 76-66 over the Vermont Catamounts. The Rams never trailed from the 5:53 point on in the first half on. In fact, they started a 21-4 run at that time to effectively put the game away in what would be the first not-that-close contest of the season. The win sees Dan Hurley pick up his first home win as head coach of URI, and moved URI to 2-6 on the season. Obviously a lot of things went right for Rhody yesterday afternoon, but there are certainly areas for improvement before facing old foe Providence College on Thursday night. Here’s our full breakdown:
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Mike Aaman – Freshman Mike Aaman turned in an absolute stellar game off the bench in a coming-out performance of sorts. Besides his 15 points off the bench (a season high), or his 8 rebounds, or his two blocked shots, Aaman was a key cog (hell, perhaps the only cog, if there is such a thing) in the turning point of the game. Aaman single-handedly started the aforementioned 21-4 run, scoring nine consecutive points for the Rams and giving them a 35-24 lead, their largest to that point. The Rhody bench put up 25 points on the afternoon, and Aaman was the biggest contributor off the pine.
2. Xavier Munford – Once again, Xavier Munford was the scoring star for Rhody, putting up 25 points on 7-11 shooting from the field. X is emerging as the Rams’ offensive stud – he’s averaging over 27 points per game over the last three contests, with URI winning two of the three. Munford is now averaging 18.9 points per game on the season, which is good for the top spot amongst scoring leaders in the Atlantic 10. It really seems that when the Rams need a bucket, the ball needs to be in his hands. We expect Munford to be the top offensive option for the rest of the season.
3. Scoring – Hey, 70+ points! The Rams put together their highest 40-minute point total of the season yesterday, and their offensive efficiency was some of the best we’ve seen all year. Rhody shot 44.2% from the field and 43.8% from the three-point line, improving their season totals in both areas. Dan Hurley had said earlier in the week that URI is making a concerted effort to slow down the offense, due to their lack of depth. Sometimes, holding the ball for 25-30 seconds in an offensive possession is the only way he can get players some rest. Yesterday, however, the Rams got out in transition for easy baskets, ran crisper offensive sets, and spent less time waiting around before running a play. Shooting at a higher percentage than normal didn’t hurt either.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Clutch Free Throw Shooting – Rhody shot a ridiculously good 12-14 (86%) from the free-throw stripe in the first half, which played a large part in their building a 14-point halftime lead. However in the second half, especially when the Rams were trying to close out the W, they shot just 11-21 (52%) from the line. They were able to close the game with a 5-6 free-throw performance in the final 0:37 seconds. But in the eight minutes prior to that, they shot just 2-9 from the line, allowing a 21 point lead to dwindle to just 10. While this game didn’t need much “closing out”, Rhody might not be so lucky in the future.
2. Rebounding – Once again, Rhody was beaten on the boards, this time by a 39-27 margin, including a 10-8 clip on the offensive glass. Vermont also held a 15-10 advantage in second-chance points, and no Ram outside of Mike Aaman recorded more than five rebounds. Foul trouble for Jordan Hare in this one certainly hurt URI down low, but their shooting percentage allowed them a little bit of leeway on the boards. Still, if Rhody can improve their rebounding margin, it will go a long way to getting them closer to .500 as the season progresses.
3. Nikola Malesevic – After an 0-6 shooting performance against George Mason, Nik shot just 3-11 yesterday, and 1-4 from three-point range. Coach Hurley has moved Nik to the bench following his one-game suspension, but it’s not a punishment issue. The URI staff would prefer to have a viable scoring option coming off the bench, and perhaps Nik is having trouble adjusting to his new role. Having a scorer come off the bench doesn’t quite work if he’s not scoring.
After a 0-5 start against some very tough opponents, the Rams have improved greatly over their past three contests, going 2-1 in the process. 2-6 isn’t exactly the best spot to be in right now, but the improvement recently is very noticeable. They travel up the road to Providence to take on the hated Friars on Thursday, and trust that we’ll have plenty this week as we get ready for that one.