The Rhode Island Rams are back in action this evening, seeking to extend just their second winning streak of the season. Rhody fans hope it goes better than the last go-around; the last time URI had a chance to extend a two-game streak they were blown out of the gym at St. Mary’s, 82-59. The Rams hope that things will be different this time around, and they very well could be. Rhody is at home for tonight’s Pink Out game, which has historically attracted a great crowd at the Ryan Center. Also, their opponent this time around is good, but nowhere near the caliber of the now 22-5 Gaels of St. Mary’s. Let’s have a look:
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Conference: Atlantic 10
2012-13 Record: 14-10 (7-4)
These aren’t your father’s Xavier Musketeers… or something like that. In any event, Chris Mack’s perennial Sweet 16 squad is having a big of a down year. Despite sitting on the cusp of a top four finish in the A-10 standings, the Musketeers are just 14-10 on the season and seem destined for the NIT, and not the Big Dance. X did defeat Butler in their second game of the season (a “non-conference” game, technically), but has not recorded a quality win since. The only thing that came close was a 70-63 victory over La Salle a month ago. Xavier is coming off a 70-59 loss to Dayton in a game that was never really that close.
Projected Starting Lineups
G: Semaj Christon, Fr, #0, 6’3″, 187
G: Dee Davis, So, #11, 6’0″, 161
F: Justin Martin, So, #20, 6’6″, 205
F: Travis Taylor, Sr, #4, 6’8″, 216
F: Jeff Robinson, Sr, #21, 6’10″, 225
G: Mike Powell, So, #1, 5’11″, 175
G: Xavier Munford, Jr, #5, 6’2″, 180
G: Andre Malone, Sr, #12, 6’6″, 210
F: Nikola Malesevic, Sr, #23, 6’7″, 200
C: Jordan Hare, Fr, #4, 6’10″, 205
Despite the down year, Xavier seems poised for the future. The Musketeers are led by point guard Semaj Christon, who leads the team in both scoring (15.2 points per game) and assists (4.5). As a freshman. However, for a guard that scores a lot, Christon doesn’t shoot the three ball all that much; he has never hit more than one three per game, and he has taken more than two threes just once. That has led to his incredibly efficient 45.9 shooting percentage. Rhody will likely rotate Powell, Buchanan, and possibly Munford on Christon as they look to limit his effectiveness from inside the arc.
While Christon is no doubt a stud, the player that could pose real problems for Rhody is Travis Taylor. The senior big man is second on the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game, but his rebounding prowess is where URI could run into trouble. Taylor averages 8.3 boards per game, and has double-digits in rebounds 10 times this season. Jordan Hare, Nik Malesevic, and Mike Aaman will have their work cut out for them as they try to compete with the 6’8″, 216 pounder on the glass.
Much like Rhody, Xavier tries to slow the game to a lull, so look for the Rams to try and potentially pick up the pace tonight, if only to get the Musketeers out of their rhythm. X only averages 13 turnovers per game, and URI is not the best at forcing teams into giving the ball up, despite their tough defense. Still, Rhody will likely try to run every chance they get. But can they run away with a win? The Rams have yet to beat Xavier inside the confines of the Ryan Center, but tonight will be their best chance to date.