The Rhode Island Rams battled the Temple Owls to the very end before finally falling 76-70 at the Liacouras Center yesterday. Rhody held a one-point lead at the half before an 18-2 second half run for the Owls did damage, and the Rams never led again. The loss dropped URI to 8-19 (3-11) on the season, but there are still a lot of positives to take away from this one. Let’s take a look at both the good and the bad:
Three Things to Feel Good About
1. Xavier Munford – In a word, Xavier Munford was unreal. The JuCo transfer buried 12 shots, including 5-8 from deep en route to a 30-point effort. It was X’s 12th consecutive double-digit scoring game as he came up just three points short of his career high. Munford scored 33 in Rhody’s first win of the season over Auburn.
2. Outside Shooting – The Rams buried 10 three pointers on an insane 50 percent clip from the outside. URI started out hot, making eight of their first ten threes over the first 14 minutes and 53 seconds of the game. It’s often feast or famine for Rhody from the outside this season, but they’ve never been as hot as they were yesterday. It was the first time the Rams have scored 70 points and lost this year.
3. Andre Malone – Munford provided a bulk of the scoring, but Malone may have been Rhode Island’s hottest shooter. The senior shot 6-9 from the field, 4-5 from three, and 2-2 from the line as he tallied 18 points on the afternoon. ‘Dre also added five rebounds and a steal to the stat sheet, and it was great seeing him tear it up as his URI career winds down.
Three Things to Be Concerned About
1. Free Throws – Rhody’s struggles at the line have been well chronicled here, but it may have cost them yesterday’s game. The Rams shot just 10-20 from the stripe, which was coincidentally their same numbers from three. 1-4 from Munford, 2-5 from T.J. Buchanan and 3-6 from Mike Powell just won’t cut it, especially in a game as close as this one.
2. Rebounding – Help on the boards is on the way for next season, but in the meantime, URI’s rebounding struggles have been tough to watch. Rhody was out-rebounded once again, this time by a 41-33 clip. The Owls also grabbed an insane 18 offensive boards, leading to a 16-7 advantage in second-chance points.
3. Motivation – Yesterday’s loss mathematically eliminated the Rams from Atlantic 10 Tournament contention with two games to play. Now that they essentially have nothing to play for, it’s going to be interesting to see how Dan Hurley gets them pumped up for the final week of the season. It’s highly unlikely that any drop in effort or hustle will not be tolerated, but you have to wonder if Rhody will simply just play out the string.
There’s little margin for error if you hate the ugly 20-loss label – the Rams will need to win their last two games to avoid a second-straight season of 20+ defeats. Luckily for them, both of their final two contests seem fairly winnable, and then it’s on to next season with an intense focus on improvement. Rhody’s next contest comes on Wednesday in Philadelphia once again. Stick with us as we’ll start previewing the St. Joseph’s Hawks over the next few days.