The Rhode Island Rams slipped to 0-2 in the Atlantic 10 on Saturday with a 58-50 loss to the Charlotte 49ers. After putting together their best half of the season in terms of shooting (52.4% from the floor), the Rams went cold in the second frame, allowing the Niners to climb back into the game and take the lead, which they would never relinquish. Charlotte did an outstanding job containing Xavier Munford for all 40 minutes, limiting him to just eight points on 3-12 shooting (0-5 from three). And it could have been the difference in this one – if X had scored his usual 15+ points, the Rams may have come away with the win. But as it stands, Rhody is one of just four A-10 teams that are 0-2 in the conference, and they’re now 5-10 on the season. What else can we take away from this one?
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Defensive Intensity – While Charlotte certainly brought the defense in this one, the Rams matched them in terms of intensity. The Rams played high-energy defense for all 40 minutes, and it showed in the stats as URI held an opponent under 60 points for the seventh time this season. The Rams held the Niners to just 37.3% from the field, and held Charlotte to just 3 three-pointers in 14 tries (21.4%). The Rams also tallied six blocked shots, and only two Charlotte players reached double-figures on the afternoon. The effort is certainly something that we’re used to seeing, and it’s something to build on despite the loss.
2. Scoring Without Xavier Munford – While they weren’t able to sustain it for the entire game, Rhody showed that they in fact can score without their star player. Thanks to Mike Powell, Andre Malone, and T.J. Buchanan, the Rams put up 31 first-half points and led for nearly all of the first 20 minutes, all without Munford scoring a point. In fact, X didn’t even get a shot up in the first half. Buchanan scored all six of his points in the first frame, taking it to the basket for a nice layup on one occasion, and burying four foul shots. Powell chipped in with a few layups of his own, and finished with a team-high 16 points. It’s not ideal to have X put up a zero, but Rhody managed to shoot well without him on the floor.
3. Andre Malone – URI got a solid effort from Malone in this one, as the senior posted 13 points on 5-9 shooting. Malone also shot 3-7 from three-point range, and those three triples were the only outside shots that Rhody hit on the day (3-17 as a team). In addition to the scoring, Malone also led the Rams in rebounds with five, including one of their three offensive boards. He tacked on a steal and an assist as well in his 34 minutes of work, and was one of the better all-around players for Rhody on Saturday.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Rebounding – Following the rebounding atrocities that occurred in the St. Mary’s game, the Rams posted back-to-back positive rebounding efforts versus Brown and Richmond. The problems on the boards resurfaced on Saturday though, as the Rams were out-rebounded 45-25, including an 11-3 edge in offensive boards for the Niners. Aside from Malone’s five, no other URI player tallied more than three boards. The three-headed center that is Mike Aaman, Jordan Hare, and Ryan Brooks recorded three rebounds apiece, and zero offensive boards combined. Not surprisingly, Charlotte had a 13-2 advantage in second-chance points as they dominated the glass from start to finish.
2. Outside Shooting – We touched on Andre Malone’s decent day from the outside, but as a whole, Rhody shot very poorly from three-point range. Munford, Powell, and Nikola Malesevic combined to go 0-10 from downtown. As a team, the Rams averaged just 17.6% from beyond the arc, and three of the team’s four best long-range shooters getting shut out certainly played a role in the loss. Credit the Niners, who played outstanding lock-down perimeter defense. Rhody had to work for every dribble.
3. Free Throws – Another issue that continues to crop up is Rhody’s inability to cash in on the freebies. The Rams shot just 61.1% from the line on the day, and despite doing a decent job creating contact, URI couldn’t finish it off with made foul shots. Buchanan was the biggest offender, getting in the lane and earning trips to the line, but he shot just 4-8 from the stripe. As a team, Rhody missed seven free throws and lost by eight, which is never a good sign.
Saturday’s game wasn’t a terrible one, but an 0-2 start in Atlantic 10 play certainly leaves the Rams with their work cut out for them if they expect to make it to Brooklyn in March. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, and Rhody heads to St. Louis this weekend as they try to grab that first conference win. We’ll have much more on the Billikens coming up this week – stick with us!