The Rhode Island Rams locked down their second win in a row, a 67-62 victory over the last place Duquense Dukes in Pittsburgh last night. Rhody came from behind late in the second half, using a 14-5 run to close out the W. URI now moves to 8-16 overall and 3-8 in conference play, and remains within striking distance for a berth into the Atlantic 10 Tournament. With the season winding down and only five games to play, the Rams are hopefully getting hot at the right time. Let’s break down what they need to do to keep this winning streak going.
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Nikola Malesevic – Nik has been absolutely on fire as of late. Coming off an outstanding effort against Dayton, the senior forward put together another great game last night. Malesevic led all Rams with 19 points on 8-13 shooting and 3-5 from three. He also added seven rebounds and a steal to his stat sheet. Nik also seems to be playing with extra intensity as of late; maybe the reality that his collegiate career is coming to a close is setting in. Malesevic seems to be doing everything he can to get the Rams to Brooklyn next month.
2. Free Throw Shooting – Rhody has struggled in closing out tight games this season, often due to poor free throw shooting down the stretch. Last night there were no such problems. Rhody shot 82.4 percent from the line for the game, including 7-8 from the stripe in the final 1:22. Andre Malone and Xavier Munford combined to go a perfect 11-11 on freebies.
3. Interior Play – URI’s two-headed center combo of Jordan Hare and Mike Aaman combined for 11 points on 5-6 shooting and nine rebounds in their 36 minutes of play. The Rams also dominated points in the paint, to the tune of 28-16 on the night. In addition, Rhody won the rebounding battle by a slim 37-34 margin.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Starters Not Named Malesevic or Hare – Mike Powell, Munford, and Malone combined to shoot just 7-32 (21.9 percent) from the field and 2-13 (15.4 percent) from three-point range. Powell and Munford also accounted for half of Rhody’s 14 turnovers. On one hand, it’s nice to see the Rams win a game in which those three don’t play all that well, but it’s hard to believe that they can keep cranking out victories with those kind of numbers. On a positive note, the three guards tallied 11 of Rhode Island’s 13 assists on the night.
2. Turnovers – URI committed just 14 turnovers in last night’s game, but 10 of those came in the second half, and four of them occurred during Duquesne’s 14-2 run. It didn’t cost the Rams the game, but ball security has been one of Rhody’s fortes this season. Any lapses or lost possessions can certainly be costly.
3. T.J. Buchanan’s Injury – The sophomore guard left briefly with a leg injury last night, but was able to return to the game. He did seem to be a bit hampered, however, and after the game he was quoted as saying he “heard something pop” in his knee. Buchanan has had injury problems in the past, but T.J. has been healthy as of late and he’s been shining on the court as a result. Let’s hope this is only a minor injury and he can continue to play at a high level, as he has in the past dozen or so games.
For the first time since December, URI can say they have a winning streak going. But Rhody has not won more than two straight games at any point this season. Can they make it three in a row on Wednesday? Stick with us as we start to preview the next challenge for the Rams coming up later in the week.