A loss is a lot easier to take when you can see the evidence of what’s in store for a team’s future. That’s exactly how a lot of Rhody fans are feeling today, following Rhode Island’s 70-64 loss to Virginia Commonwealth last night. URI hung with one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 for 40 minutes before finally running out of gas, but the level of play they exhibited indicates a promising future for this basketball team. When Dan Hurley and the rest of the coaching staff fill out the roster they want in the years to come, Rhody is going to be an exciting team to watch, and most fans will agree that big things are in store. A six-point loss to a team that was ranked a week ago isn’t all that bad when you consider the big picture. Let’s see what else we can take away from last night’s contest:
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. The Intensity – From the opening tip, Rhody seemed as focused and determined than they’ve been at any other point this season, and that is certainly saying something. Dan Hurley always has the Rams playing with a high level of energy, but it really seemed to be turned up a notch last night. Backed by a raucous crowd at the Ryan Center, URI was flying up and down the court, diving for loose balls, and fist pumping after almost every basket. The desire is there, but the depth is not at this stage, as the Runnin’ Rams appeared to tire down the stretch. Even so, the non-stop hustle made for quite an exciting basketball game.
2. Forcing Turnovers – On the season, VCU has put together a deadly combination of not only forcing the nation’s most turnovers, but also limiting their own. Thanks to Rhody’s outstanding defense, that wasn’t the case last night. While Virginia Commonwealth was able to get URI to cough up the ball 18 times, Rhode Island forced 19 turnovers of their own, VCU’s highest amount since December 21, 2010. Rhody also held a 19-17 edge in points off turnovers, and a convincing 10-2 margin in fast break points. It’s always satisfying when you can out-work a team’s biggest strength.
3. Jordan Hare – The ups and downs of Jordan Hare’s freshman campaign have been well chronicled here, but last night was hopefully a big step forward. Hare tallied 10 points on 5-5 shooting (all dunks and layups), grabbed three offensive boards and blocked three shots. While his total rebounds sat at just five in 29 minutes of work, the big forward is certainly establishing what he can potentially become in this league. Even with Biruta and Onyekaba coming in next year to fill up the middle, Hare will be a valuable asset regardless of his role.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Interior Defense – Rhody’s struggles defending in the pain continued again last night, even with VCU’s four-guard offense. URI gave up a staggering 42 points in the paint, including several easy layups following a series of Virginia Commonwealth ball screens. 6’9″ forward Juvonte Reddic went off for 18 points on 6-10 shooting, and also chipped in with 12 boards, 7 of them coming on the offensive end. We knew Reddic would be trouble coming in, and he delivered his fourth double-double in VCU’s last five games. As a team, the other Rams held an 18-15 second-chance points advantage against Rhody.
2. Rebounding – We may have to start pushing this one out of our “concerned” section and just take it as a given every night. URI was out-rebounded 35-26 in this one, and although the numbers in offensive boards were relatively even, Rhody dealt with a lot of one-and-done offensive possessions. There’s not much else to say – Rhode Island is not a very good rebounding team. It’s just something they have to deal with right now, but fear not: reinforcements are on their way for next season.
3. Depth – Depth is another issue that the Rams have dealt with all year, but one that will also see a drastic improvement next season. Rhody came to play with high energy last night, and they matched VCU’s havoc every step of the way on both ends of the floor. But URI clearly tired down the stretch, with Mike Powell, Xavier Munford, and Andre Malone all playing 35+ minutes. Rhode Island tried to slow the game to their pace and succeeded overall, but they could only manage the tempo when they had possession.
When it was all said and done, there was a lot to feel good about following this game, and even more to look forward to as this season turns into next season. For now, all we can do is chronicle Rhody’s quest to get to Brooklyn – which is still within reach. There’s a lot of season left to play, and it’s safe to say that no one should count this team out. Ever.