Larry Brown and the SMU Mustangs came into the Ryan Center this afternoon and got absolutely embarrassed. The Rhode Island Rams turned in by far their best performance of the season, and perhaps in several seasons as they rocked Southern Methodist to the tune of 72-50. Rhody absolutely dominated every phase of the game, from shooting to defense to the turnover battle… and more. The win hands the Mustangs just their second loss of the season, and moves the Rams to 3-7 on the year.
Dan Hurley made a small change to the starting lineup in this one, and it paid off. As opposed to what we’ve seen in the last few contests, Ryan Brooks started on the bench this afternoon, and Nikola Malesevic was inserted in his place amongst the starters. It allowed Nik to play where he seems most comfortable, and it gave Brooks a chance to do what he usually does – provide energy, rebounds, and take up space in the middle. The change was noticeable, as Nik finally busted out of his shooting slump, contributing 12 points on 4-8 shooting, including 3-6 from three. Brooks also played his new role well – scoring four points and mixing in a blocked shot as well as a steal.
All in all, Rhody had four players in double figures. Xavier Munford (11), Andre Malone (15), and Mike Powell (18) joined Malesevic in the scoring effort, and Jordan Hare chipped in with nine points on four dunks. Powell was the game-high scorer, and his 18 points came incredibly efficiently. MP shot 4-5 from the field, 3-3 from three, and 7-7 from the line. An amazing 11 of the 12 balls that left his hand went through the net. He was a big piece of the Rams season high shooting percentages on the day: 49% from the field, 43.5% from three, and 86% from the line. URI also picked up 17 assists – five each from Munford and Malesevic, and four from Powell. The all-around effort from multiple players that we’ve been waiting for all season was there today, to say the least.
Meanwhile, the Rhody defense was… also awesome. The Rams forced an insane 22 turnovers and recorded 12 steals. SMU shot just 3-11 from three points range en route to a season-low 50 points. And the countless hustle plays that Rhode Island made don’t even show in the box score. Every loose ball, every 50/50 play, every out-of-bounds save was there with 100% effort from the Rams. They were diving all over the floor all afternoon, and it made a big difference in the final score. For a team that figures to not be favored in many conference games this season, plays like those are exactly what Rhody needs to make in order to continue to rack up the wins.
All in all, there are no complaints about this one. A complete dismantling of a very well-coached 8-1 team, solid contributions from literally every player who saw minutes, and the Rams are now 3-7. And they continue to get better. We’ll have more from this win tomorrow as Rhody Nation can enjoy it until the Rams’ next game a week from today.