A win is a win. And for a team trying to improve on an 8-21 season, the Rhode Island Rams will take them any way they can get them. Rhody was pushed to the brink by the Metro State Roadrunners last night, but Dan Hurley’s squad was able to slip away with a 66-63 win. The victory, combined with Arizona’s drubbing of Fairleigh Dickinson last night sets up a match-up with the Wildcats this evening. Before we move on to the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off, let’s break down URI’s first-round game. Here’s a deeper dive into what went right – and wrong – for the Rams.
First off, a huge amount of credit for last night’s game goes to Dan Hurley. Yes, the first half was a bit tumultuous, but DH and the coaching staff went into the locker room and made the necessary changes to come back and win the game. The Rams went small, using a three-guard lineup of Biggie Minnis, E.C. Matthews, and Xavier Munford. It worked, and all three of those guys came up big in the W. Munford led the way with 16 points, seven boards and five assists. Matthews nearly matched him, adding 16 points and seven rebounds of his own to go along with three dimes. Minnis chipped in with eight points, five rebounds, and five assists.
19 rebounds combined between three guards will certainly win a lot of games. Rhody dominated on the boards, holding a 42-27 edge, and they held Metro State to just one offensive rebound all game. The Rams also shot the three-ball well, hitting on 47 percent of their shots from deep. They’ve certainly struggled from beyond the arc to this point in the season, but last night it helped them claw their way back into the game.
As for the negatives from last night, see if this sounds familiar. A sluggish first half that saw big turnover numbers and poor defense for URI. The same happened against North Carolina A&T, and the Rams will need to get off to better starts as their schedule gets tougher. Bear in mind that with all the new players, everything is still kind of a work in progress. As the season goes on, expect issues like this to go away, or at least be a little less drastic. On a team with freshman, transfers, and veterans, patience is key. Sweating out a game against a Division II opponent isn’t fun, but the Rams are advancing in the winners’ bracket of the NIT Season Tip-Off and that’s all that matters.
The victory sets up a date with the #5 team in the country coming up tonight. We’ll have much more on the Arizona Wildcats throughout the day today as Rhode Island gets set for what will likely be their biggest test of the 2013-14 season.