The Rhode Island Rams absolutely dominated the second half tonight, running away from the UNC Asheville Bulldogs for a convincing 73-56 victory. Believe it or not, this one was tied at the half before Rhody poured it on in the final 20 minutes, outscoring UNC-A 40-23 in the second frame to pick up the win. The W moves URI to 5-2 on the season, including 4-0 at home and 2-1 in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The final game of the in-season tourney will be played tomorrow night.
As has been the formula, Rhody got off to a slow start once again, although this time there may have been foul trouble to blame. Gilvydas Biruta (6 minutes) and Hassan Martin (7 minutes) were both limited due to two fouls apiece. It hurt URI on offense a bit, but it really stung on defense. The Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc in the first frame, but the Rams were able to stick with them despite being limited. Rhode Island was down by as many as four in the half, but they clawed their way back to tie things at 33 heading into the locker room.
Things looked a little dicey right off the bat to start the second half when Biruta picked up his third foul just 1:01 into the action. But Dan Hurley stuck with him… and it proved to be a great decision. Gilvydas was one of several Rams to come alive in the half, pouring in 11 points on 4-4 shooting as URI made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside. It certainly worked. Nine of Rhode Island’s first 12 made field goals of the half were all layups… and the other three were three-pointers opened up by Rhody’s presence inside. And not only did the Rams turn up the offense – they played inspired D as well. Asheville shot just 39 percent from the field in the second half while committing nine turnovers, and Dan Hurley’s squad exhibited some sheer dominance over the Bulldogs en route to the lopsided win.
Biggie Minnis led the way for URI with a career-high 14 points on 5-6 shooting. Biruta had a big of a coming out party with 13 points of his own to go along with six rebounds. Xavier Munford rounded out the double-figure scorers with 14 of his own, bouncing back after a slow start.
We talked a little bit about UNC-A’s size coming into this one, but height will only get you so much. The Rams absolutely owned the glass tonight, holding a 37-21 edge in rebounding… and it wasn’t just the big men, either. Munford led the team with seven boards, while T.J. Buchanan (six) and Jarelle Reischel (five) were also among the team leaders.
Sure, the slow start wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either. And the second half did more than enough to erase the memories of a sluggish beginning. URI played some of their best ball in the final 20 minutes, and here’s hoping that they can carry it over to tomorrow night and beyond. In the meantime, we’ll have a more detailed breakdown of tonight’s action first thing tomorrow morning.