If Tuesday night’s game was on too late for you, don’t worry. There will be plenty of chances to watch the Arizona Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament in March. Yes, ‘Zona looked that good in their 87-59 victory of the Rhode Island Rams on Tuesday as they jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The loss drops URI to 3-2 on the young season, which is still a marked improvement over their 0-5 start from a year ago. That said, Rhody can certainly improve their play this season in several areas. Let’s break it down.
Xavier Munford has to top the list of positives from this one. The senior guard has been hampered with a foot injury for much of the season so far, but he bounced back in a big way Tuesday night. X dropped 22 points on 7-18 shooting and an impressive 7-9 from the free throw line. His three-point shooting (1-6) could use a little improvement, but otherwise the Munford from last season is back. The URI team as a whole played much better in the second half, scoring 40 points and only being outscored by Arizona by four points. It bears repeating – if the Rams can put together two halves of play like this, they’ll hang with any team in the country.
The defensive issues for Rhody in this one could fill up a three-page post. The Rams were slow to rotate, they communicated poorly, and they didn’t execute the help D necessary to stop the Wildcats. ‘Zona finished the game shooting 58 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc. Dan Hurley had his team switch to a zone defense in the first half to try and force the Wildcats to shoot jumpers, but it still couldn’t slow them down. Arizona racked up 48 points in the paint on the night as it was a layup- and dunk-fest down low against Rhode Island.
Fortunately for Rhody, the schedule gets a little easier now. URI will take on UMass-Lowell in the friendly confines of the Ryan Center on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 2:00 p.m.