The Rhode Island Rams needed a win last night to keep their Atlantic 10 Tournament hopes alive, and they got one in dramatic fashion. A Xavier Munford tie-breaking three-pointer in the final seconds gave URI a 75-72 victory, earning the Rams just their second A-10 win of the season. What else is there to take away from this one? Here’s a full breakdown:
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. An Entire Team Effort – Munford was the hero, but Rhode Island got contributions from every player who saw minutes. X led all scorers with 18 points, but Nikola Malesevic had one of the best all-around games for the Rams this season. Nik posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards, and also added seven assists, three steals, and two blocks. Mike Aaman came off the bench to score 11 points, Mike Powell had 10 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Andre Malone added eight points and three assists. But wait, there’s more. Jordan Hare had eight points, seven rebounds, and three blocks, and T.J. Buchanan checked in with five points and three assists. A true team win? This was a perfect example.
2. Shooting Efficiency – In a season of ups and downs when it comes to shooting, Rhody had one of their better games last night. URI shot 50.0 percent from the floor and 45.5 from three-point range. Malone was the most notable of the bunch, going a perfect 3-3 from the field, including 2-2 from downtown.
3. Ball Movement – Rhode Island isn’t exactly known for racking up the assists; they came into last night’s game averaging just 10 per game. But Rhody pieced together 19 dimes on 28 field goals last night. Nik led the way with seven, Powell had five, and Buchanan and Malone had three apiece. It was URI’s highest assist total of the season.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Rebounding – Conventional wisdom says that the Rams stand a better chance to win when they win the rebounding battle. But that hasn’t been the case in their past two games. Rhody grabbed more boards than St. Bonaventure last weekend and lost, and last night they were out-rebounded by the Flyers 38-30 in the win. Go figure.
2. Free Throw Shooting – Sure, it ended up an exciting finish, but Rhode Island had their chances to make this one a little less stressful if they had made their free throws down the stretch. A missed front end of a 1-and-1 by Munford set up Dayton with the game-tying three in the final minute, and the Rams went just 9-15 (60.0 percent) from the line overall.
3. Killer Instinct – This ties in with the same theme of putting the game away earlier than the final seconds. Rhody built three separate leads of seven or more, and all three times the Flyers were able to close the gap with 5-0 runs. Dan Hurley had mentioned that he wanted to “kick in the door” in the second half, and while the Rams had their chances, they were not able to put Dayton away until the very end.
Overall, this was an outstanding win for Rhody, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The question now is, can they build on it? The Atlantic 10 Tournament is still within striking distance, but the Rams need more wins like this one… even if they’re not as exciting. Rhody heads to Duquesne on Saturday to take on a team that sealed their first A-10 win only a few hours ago. We’ll start with our breakdown of the Dukes coming up tomorrow.