The Rhode Island Rams fell behind the Richmond Spiders by 18 in the second half last night, and their furious comeback came up just short as they dropped to 0-1 in Atlantic 10 play with a 64-61 loss. Rhody had closed to within three with just 20 seconds to play when Richmond attempted to intentionally foul the Rams. Xavier Munford knew what was up, and launched a wild three-pointer as he was being hacked. The officiating crew never called the foul as the shot sailed out of bounds, and the Spiders were able to close things out at the free throw line for the W. Munford led all scorers with 25 points, and was the key for the Rams as they clawed their way back late in the game. Let’s try to break this one down a bit further.
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. The No-Quit Attitude – With the score 60-42 and 5:17 to play, this one was all but over. But apparently, no one told the Rams that, as they put together a 17-0 run to make this one a nail-biter down the stretch. URI could have easily packed it in and taken their first loss of A-10 play, but they didn’t. They played a full 40 minutes of 100% effort basketball, so credit to Dan Hurley, Xavier Munford, and the rest of the Rhody squad. There is nothing that Rhody Nation want to see more than a team that will not go down without a fight, and it certainly made this loss easier to take from a fan perspective. This attitude has certainly come into play several times this season, and Hurley is clearly instilling it in every single one of his players, which will no doubt pay off this season and beyond.
2. Perimeter Defense – The scouting report on Richmond is clear: their combo of sharp-shooting guards makes them an absolutely lethal team from the outside. So how did Rhody fare? They held the Spiders to just four made three-pointers and 22% shooting from downtown. Defensive specialist T.J. Buchanan tied his season high in minutes with 20 as he provided fantastic defense on the perimeter. Mike Powell, Xavier Munford, and Andre Malone also chipped in to limit Richmond’s guards, as their “big three” (Anthony, Brothers, and Lindsay) shot just 20% (2-10) from outside.
3. Mike Aaman – In a game where the Rhody big men could have really capitalized on both ends of the floor, it seemed that only Mike Aaman was up to the challenge. The freshman saw more than half of Rhody’s minutes at center… and cashed in. Aaman posted a double-double, with 13 points on 6-9 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds. 5 of those rebounds came on the offensive end, leading to a few put-back baskets, and most of his shots were from in close. The big man also chipped in with a couple of blocked shots before fouling out. Mike displayed some nice post moves for a young gun, and he’s only going to get better. Did he do enough in this one to earn a starting role on Saturday? We say yes, and it will certainly be something to keep an eye on.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Points In The Paint – Only two Spiders taller than 6’5″ saw significant minutes in last night’s game, and they went with a literal five-guard offense at several points. But if you think that means Rhody dominated in terms of points in the paint, you would be wrong. Somehow Richmond outscored the Rams 34-32 in the key, as the Spiders took it inside and scored with relative ease. Richmond shot over 53% from two-point range, and the Rams just recorded three blocked shots against a much smaller team. Rhody needs to do a better job exploiting size advantages when they have them.
2. Slow Starts – The tremendous finish was nice, but the Rams wouldn’t have needed it had they not fallen so far behind. Rhody struggled to find offense for the first 35 minutes of the game before exploding, but they need to catch fire a lot sooner in order to keep it close before the final push. Not only do they need to focus on getting Munford the ball early and often, they also need someone (Powell, Malone, Malesevic) to step up and help with the scoring load. X can’t do it all by himself.
3. Jordan Hare – This was a game where we thought for sure we’d see Hare show some of his raw ability. Instead, it was 1-4 shooting, three rebounds, 0 blocks, and two points. The freshman continues to be a mystery, showing promise in some games and looking lost in others. His defense is clearly a contributing factor to his lack of playing time, as he only saw 12 minutes in this one. It is waaaayyyy too early to speculate on what kind of player Hare will become; he just has to keep working, and we know Hurley will make sure of that.
A loss is a loss, but there’s no denying that Rhody is a tough, hard-working team, and that makes them fun to watch. They get right back at it on Saturday when the Rams welcome Charlotte to the Ryan Center, and we’ll start breaking down the 49ers tomorrow. Stick with us.