The Rhode Island Rams look to kick off 2013 on the right foot as they finish of their non-conference schedule against another in-state opponent. A few weeks ago, this game looked like it was going to be a pretty easy win; in fact, we already penciled it in on our schedule. But now… eh, maybe not so much. Let’s take a look at what Rhody needs to do to begin the new year with a W.
Location: Providence, RI
Conference: Ivy League
2011-12 Record: 8-23 (2-12)
Ah, our old friends, the Brown Bears – an annual opponent who, lest we forget, beat the Rams last year 65-56 at the Pizzitola Center in Providence. As for this season, the Bears are 4-7, having recorded wins against Binghamton, Maine, Sacred Heart, and… wait that can’t be right. Hm. It is. Brown beat old friends Providence College 69-68 back on December 28th. And all of a sudden tonight’s game is a little scarier. Brown is coming off a 57-50 loss to Albany on New Year’s Eve day, and has also suffered defeats to Bryant (best team in the state?), Northwestern, and Notre Dame, among others.
Projected Starting Lineups
G: Sean McGonagill, Jr, #22, 6’1″, 180
G: Matt Sullivan, Sr, #14, 6’5″, 205
F: Tucker Halpern, Sr, #33, 6’8″, 220
F: Cedric Kuakumensah, Fr, #21, 6’8″, 245
C: Rafael Maia, So, #45, 6’9″, 230
G: Mike Powell, So, #1, 5’11″, 175
G: Xavier Munford, Jr, #5, 6’2″, 180
G: Andre Malone, Sr, #12, 6’6″, 210
F: Nikola Malesevic, Sr, #23, 6’7″, 200
C: Jordan Hare, Fr, #4, 6’10″, 205
The Bears return only two starters from last year’s match-up versus Rhody, but one of them is point guard Sean McGonagill, who just so happened to be the game’s high scorer last November 30th. Then a sophomore, McGonagill dropped 19 points on the Rams on 6-14 shooting, including 3-9 from three-point range. He also tallied four rebounds and five assists in his 39 minutes of work. Fast-forward to this season and McGonagill is second on the team with a 14.2 points per game average, but only shoots it at a 36.7% clip. He does lead the team in assists however, netting 4.3 per game.
The other returning starter is Matt Sullivan, who also happens to be Brown’s leading scorer this season. The senior guard leads the Bears with 14.4 points per game, and is coming off a 16-point effort versus Albany. But against the Rams last year, Sullivan shot just 2-11 from the field en route to just a six-point performance. The Bears shoot a tick under 40% from the field as a team this year, so a strong Rhody defense could lead to a good chunk of missed shots for Sullivan and others.
However, if URI is looking to keep one player from getting hot, it has to be Tucker Halpern. The senior forward absolutely torched PC to the tune of 28 points and EIGHT three-pointers. And last time out, Halpern dropped 18 more on Albany, giving him a nice little 23 points-per-game average over the last two contests. It’s a small sample size, for sure – Halpern is averaging just 11.6 points per game on the season, but he appears to be hitting his stride right about now. If Rhody allows him to go for 20+ again, they could be in trouble.
Overall, this still should be a winnable game for the Rams. If URI can rebound the ball – something they decidedly did NOT do last time out against St. Mary’s – they’ll have a pretty good chance against a team that misses a lot of shots. Tight defense and second-chance points will play a big role tonight, one way or the other. A bounce-back for the Rams is in order as they try to enter 2013 and enter Atlantic 10 play with a win.