Well that was fun. The Rhode Island Rams put on an absolute clinic at the Ryan Center tonight as they smoked the Maine Black Bears 97-77. And believe it or not, it wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated. Rhody led by as many as 28 in this one, dominating Maine on both ends of the floor to pick up their first opening night victory since the 2009-10 season. URI now sits at 1-0 on the young season, which is finally underway after a few anxious months.
The Black Bears proved to be relatively pesky early on, refusing to go away even after the Rams jumped out to a 15-6 lead thanks to a pair of Mike Powell three-pointers. It was 26-21 URI with 8:49 to play in the first half before Rhode Island went on a run. Rhody outscored Maine 26-14 in the remainder of the half, taking a 17-point lead into the locker room in front of a raucous crowd. But the Rams were just getting started. A monster start to the second half saw them run the score up to 61-43 with just 16:12 remaining and it was smooth sailing from there. Twelve URI players – including two walk-ons – found themselves in the scoring column for the night as Rhody posted their highest point total of the Dan Hurley era.
The story of the night was sophomore Ifeanyi Onyekaba. After sitting out all of last season, he showed why the coaching staff went out of their way to secure his commitment. The 6’8″ Nigerian tallied 21 points to lead four Rams in double-figures. Onyekaba also chipped in with 10 rebounds, including eight (!!!!) on the offensive end. He shot 8-10 from the field to post the only double-double for either side.
It wasn’t just Onyekaba on the boards, either. Rhody controlled the glass from the opening tip as they held a 55-28 rebounding advantage over the Black Bears. Dan Hurley also had his players taking advantage of the new fouls thanks to some increased activity down low. The Rams scored 52 points in the paint and attempted 49 free throws in the game as they made a concerted effort to take the ball to the basket.
If you were excited about the fresh faces finally making an appearance in game action, these numbers should make you happy. Jarelle Reischel (18) and Hassan Martin (15) also reached the double-digit scoring mark in a great night for the newcomers. Familiar face Xavier Munford rounded out the top scorers with 11.
This was one of the more fun games in recent memory for URI fans, and certainly one of the better performances in the Dan Hurley era. We’ll have a more thorough dissection of this one coming up tomorrow, but in the meantime… enjoy this one. It was awesome.