The Rhode Island Rams improved to 4-7 on the season Saturday with a 65-60 nail-biter win over the Georgia State Panthers at the Ryan Center. This one had to feel good for Rhody, especially after being eviscerated by Georgia State last season to the tune of 96-64. URI has now won 4 of their last 6 contests as they improve to 3-3 at home, and have only two non-conference games left before beginning Atlantic 10 play. Let’s break this one down, shall we?
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Hustle Plays – Intangibles are sometimes a little too overrated, but they can be the difference between winning and losing a close game. Between blocked shots by Xavier Munford and Nikola Malesevic, a huge tip-out rebound by Ryan Brooks after a missed free throw, and every single guy going to the floor for loose balls, there were plenty of hustle plays to go around. We all know Rhody was losing these types of games early on this season, and sometimes it’s this kind of effort that can push a team into the win column.
2. Nikola Malesevic – To quote a tweet from Dan Hurley: “Nik played like a winner today. Toughness. Skill. Will to win. Leadership. Big plays! A real senior!” That sums it up nicely. Malesevic was huge for Rhody all day, finishing with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and a pair of assists. He also blocked a game-tying layup with 0:28 seconds left and buried two clutch free throws to seal the win. So yeah, not a bad game for Nik.
3. Rebounding – Rhode Island finished with a… positive… rebounding margin…? It’s true – the Rams pulled down 36 boards in this game to just 29 for Georgia State. Rhody also limited the Panthers to just five offensive rebounds and only seven second-chance points. Malesevic once again led the way with his nine rebounds, but Andre Malone had seven while Xavier Munford, Jordan Hare, and Ryan Brooks chipped in with four apiece.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Turnovers – It wasn’t a mistake-plagued game by any means, but the Rams were a -6 in turnover margin in this one. Rhody committed 12 turnovers to Georgia State’s 6, but the real concern shows up when taking a look at the steals. The Panthers had nine steals while URI had… hmm… well, they had none. This was the first time all season where the Rams failed to record at least one steal, and allowing Georgia State to pile up nine of them is a little concerning. It also led to zero fast break points for Rhody, whereas GSU recorded eight points off the break.
2. Jordan Hare – Hare’s line in the box score doesn’t look completely horrendous – 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1-2 from the field – but the painful part of his afternoon came on the defensive end. The freshman was flat-footed in the paint for pretty much the entire game, allowing the Panthers to take it to the hole at will with very little resistance. Georgia State ended the afternoon with 30 points in the paint – half of their entire game total. Hare seemed to be trying to draw charges instead of playing tough defense, and as a result, guys were just dribbling around him as if he were a telephone pole. Hare is a work in progress for sure, but defensive efforts like what we saw on Saturday won’t cut it against most opponents.
3. Mike Aaman’s Injury – Aaman suffered a mild concussion in the SMU game when the back of his head banged against the Ryan Center floor after taking a charge. He missed the Georgia State game due to lingering post-concussion symptoms, but there is concern that he could miss the St. Mary’s game tomorrow as well. From Mike’s Twitter last night:
Headache.never goes away
— Mike Aaman (@mike_aaman) December 26, 2012
Head injuries are always a sensitive issue, so let’s not only hope that Mike is back on the court soon, but that he also shakes any and all post-concussion-symptoms before returning.
It’s hard not to be happy with where Rhody is right now. Just think: through their first 11 games last season, the Rams were 1-10. This year they are 4-7, and they’ve done it with a much tougher schedule and a roster that certainly has less depth than a year ago. Next up for URI is a difficult road match-up against St. Mary’s out in California tomorrow night. Stay tuned for a preview and much more as Rhody tries to make it three in a row.