Bigger. Faster. Stronger. The Arizona Wildcats were all of that and more tonight as they manhandled the Rhode Island Rams 87-59 at the McKale Center. Rhody showed some nice spurts of competitiveness, but ‘Zona had too much talent for the Rams to handle. The loss was URI’s 21st straight against a ranked opponent dating back to 1998 as they now drop to 3-2 on the young season, including 0-2 in true road games.
As has been the case in nearly every game so far, the Rams got off to a slow start. But unlike previous games, the troubles (for the most part) weren’t on defense. Instead, it was Rhody’s offense that struggled through the first 20 minutes. URI scored just 19 points in the opening frame on just 25 percent shooting. Meanwhile the Wildcats poured in 43 points on 56 percent from the field. And strangely enough, Rhode Island’s D wasn’t that bad. They were slow to recover on their help defense at times, especially in the paint, but Arizona’s skill level cannot be overstated.
The formula of the season held true to form as the Rams played much better in the second half. They were outscored by just four points in the final 20 minutes as the URI offense settled into a bit of a groove. Much of the offense was geared by Xavier Munford, who poured in a game-high 22 points. X continued to struggle with his outside shooting (1-6), but his foot seems to be healing just fine. He was dangerous off the dribble all night, getting the ball to the rim and earning trips to the foul line with regularity.
A team of Arizona’s caliber can certainly highlight areas that need improvement, and that’s exactly what happened. ‘Zona’s big men pretty much had their way with URI down low, putting up points in the paint at will. Still, the Rams played a tough brand of basketball in the second half when they could have easily packed it in. Dan Hurley will no doubt add this one to the list of games filed under “learning experiences” and move on. We’ll have much more from tonight’s contest coming up tomorrow.