The Rhode Island Rams put together one of their best games in recent memory last night, controlling the Maine Black Bears from the opening tip en route to a 97-77 win at the Ryan Center. From scoring to rebounding to defense, Rhody did it all, thanks in part to contributions from six of their newcomers. The four players that were forced to sit out all of last season were quite anxious for some game action, and it showed. Add in Hassan Martin and E.C. Matthews and this team is going to be quite fun to watch this season. Heck, even freshman Matthew Butler got in on the fun. Let’s break it down.
The star of the game was most certainly sophomore Ifeanyi Onyekaba. The 6’8″ newcomer dropped 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to post the only double-double from either side. The big man was fierce on the glass, showing great timing and footwork in the paint, all of which contributed to Rhody’s 25 second-chance points. Iffy (Or is it The Big O? We need a consensus on a nickname here.) grabbed eight offensive boards and shot a very efficient 8-10 from the field, putting together a monster effort in his first collegiate game.
Rebounding was huge for URI in this one as they snagged 55 on the night, including 19 offensive. By contrast, Maine snagged only 22 rebounds total, and just 16 defensive. That’s right – the Rams collected more of their own misses than the Black Bears did. Gilvydas Biruta (8 rebounds), Jarelle Reischel, and Biggie Minnis (7 apiece) all did work on the glass last night, giving Rhody a new look as opposed to last season.
That’s not even close to all the positives, either. Reischel, Hassan Martin, Xavier Munford, E.C. Matthews… the contributions were seemingly endless.
If there’s anything to be concerned about following the season opener, it starts with free-throw shooting. URI attempted 49 foul shots last night, but missed 17 of them (67 percent). That’s good enough to take care of teams like Maine, but those numbers will need to improve against tougher opponents. Rhody also struggled shooting the three, making just four of 21 attempts. Only Mike Powell shot the three-ball well last night, and a 19 percent mark gives some concern as to where the Rams will get their three-pointers from this season. The good news is that it’s only one game.
There’s a bigger test looming for the Rhode Island Rams, as they’ll head down to Dallas next to take on the SMU Mustangs. We’ll have much more over the next few days concerning this big match-up Monday night.