Rhode Island Rams 72, SMU Mustangs 50 – Recap

Rhode Island Rams guard Mike Powell (1). Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Rhode Island Rams played by far their best game of the season on Saturday, using a strong second half to pull away from the SMU Mustangs en route to a 72-50 victory. URI led by just two at halftime, but their offense exploded in the second frame with a 43-point effort – their highest output in a half this season. So much went right in this one that it was hard to narrow down just three positives; we could have easily named 10 areas of awesomeness. So without further ado, here’s a full breakdown:

Three Things to Feel Good About

1. Mike Powell – Those that are thinking that Powell has no chance to be the starting PG next season are now rethinking that stance a bit. That’s because MP played one of his best games in a Rhody uniform on Saturday, tallying a game-high 18 points on 4-5 shooting, including 3-3 from beyond the arc. If that’s not efficient enough for you, he buried 7-7 from the free throw stripe, meaning his FG/3P/FT percentages broke out like this: 80/100/100. That alone is amazing, but it doesn’t even tell the whole story. The sophomore also racked up four assists, a couple of rebounds, and SIX steals in his 35 minutes of work. Powell has been a bit up and down this year for sure, but if he build off of his performance this weekend, we may start to see what he can truly do under the tutelage of the Hurleys.

2. Offensive Production – It wasn’t just Powell in this one, though. Every single player from top-to-bottom contributed in some way for Rhody. Andre Malone carried the Rams on offense in the first half on his way to a 15 point, eight rebound effort, including a 4-8 display from three. Nikola Malesevic added 12 points and 3-6 three point shooting to go along with five assists. Xavier Munford missed much of the first half after banging heads (literally) with SMU’s Jalen Jones, but X still was able to pour in 11 points and tack on five assists. Jordan Hare was the only URI starter to miss out on double figures – but just barely. He chipped in with nine points on 4-9 shooting, and Rhody posted a shooting percentage of 49% on the afternoon, raising their average to 39% on the season.

3. Defense – The tremendous defensive effort by the Rams rounds out the near perfect performance versus SMU. Rhody held the Mustangs to just 50 points, allowing them to shoot just 43% from the field and 27% from three. URI recorded 12 steals, a huge chunk of SMU’s 22 turnovers. The Rhody defense led to eight fast break points and an amazing 22 points off turnovers. The defense for Rhode Island was the main ingredient to their largest margin of victory on the season.

Three Things to Be Concerned About

1. Rebounding – Despite dominating in virtually every other phase of the game, the Rams found themselves with another negative rebounding margin on Saturday, getting beat on the boards 26-22. And despite giving up only six second-chance points, they were only able to tally three themselves. Andre Malone was the surprise leader with eight rebounds for Rhody, but Ryan Brooks, Jordan Hare, and Mike Aaman combined for just four boards total. Jalen Jones led the way with nine rebounds for the Mustangs, and Shawn Williams tallied four of their eight offensive boards.

2. Bench Scoring – Yes, Rhody scored 72 points and yes, every player made a positive impact. But there’s no getting away from the fact that the starters carried most of the scoring load. Besides four points from Brooks and three from Aaman, the Ram bench was shut out. Nik Malesevic was initially moved to the bench by Dan Hurley in order to give him some points coming off the pine. Now that Nik appears to be back in a starting role, it’s negatively affecting the scoring that Rhody can get from their reserves. The coaching staff seems to be in somewhat of a paradox unless Aaman, Bigby, or Buchanan can step up and score consistently.

3. Munford’s Outside Shooting – Lost in the shuffle of an otherwise solid win was an 0-5 performance from three-point range for Xavier Munford. Now one bad night in a big win shouldn’t be enough to set off any alarms, but let’s remember that he also shot 0-8 versus Providence. Dating back to the Vermont game, X is just 1-14 (7.1%) from deep in his last five halves of play. We know he’s prone to hot and cold streaks, and he did get clocked in the noggin pretty good in the first half of this one, so it will be interesting to see if he can bust out of this slump moving forward.

Looking at the entire body of work from Saturday, Rhody fans would be hard pressed to find any significant complaints. As the holiday season approaches, the games become a little more spaced out, and the Rams won’t play again until this coming Saturday, when they’re at the Ryan once again to welcome Georgia State. Stick with us this week as we continue to bask in this one.

Topics: Basketball, Rhode Island Rams, SMU Mustangs

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