The Rhode Island Rams will play their final game of the calendar year tomorrow afternoon when they host the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at the Ryan Center. And for the first time this season, Rhody will have a chance to equal their win total from a year ago. It won’t be easy, however. The Golden Eagles will enter tomorrow’s action at 11-2, with their only losses coming against Western Kentucky and nationally-ranked Louisville. So URI will have their hands full as they try to snag victory number eight. Here’s what it will take:
1. Bring the Defense Again
The Southern Miss offense will never get confused with the UNH offense. That said, the Rams played some solid defense last time out in a very convincing win over the Wildcats. They’ll need to do more of the same tomorrow afternoon – the Golden Eagles rank amongst the top 100 teams in the country in field goal percentage at 46.6 percent. In fact, Rhody may need to play better than they did on Sunday if they plan on shutting down a very tough Southern Miss team.
2. Keep Watson Off the Scoreboard
Biggie Minnis and T.J. Buchanan have their work cut out for them. The Golden Eagles are led by explosive point guard Neil Watson, who not only leads the team in scoring (12.3 points-per-game), but poses a threat in a variety of areas. The 5’11” senior is shooting 42 percent from three and an insane 90 percent from the free-throw line. Oh, and he also racks up a team-best 4.0 assists per game. Needless to say, Watson can beat teams in a lot of different ways. Considering he’s played 30+ minutes in 11 of Southern Miss’ 13 games this season, URI will need to account for his presence on the court at all times.
3. Get Someone Hot From the Field
This should be a key every game, but it’s especially true when the Rams are set to face off against one of the better teams in their non-conference schedule. And we don’t need to mention it, but it’s also something the Rams have struggled with all season. Whether it’s Biruta, Munford, Matthews, or someone else, someone needs to step up as an offensive threat if URI is going to have a chance tomorrow.
4. Hit. Free. Throws.
There’s only so many ways we can say it, but it continues to bear repeating. Rhody started 9-9 from the stripe last time out before their struggles resurfaced. A free-throw shooting percentage in the 60s may be good enough to beat UNH, but it won’t cut it against the Golden Eagles.
5. Get the Home Crowd Involved
The only two Southern Miss losses on the season have come in their last two road games. Yes, the students are gone, and yes, it’s between Christmas and New Years. But the Ryan Center has to be rocking tomorrow regardless. If Rhody can feed off their home crowd, it could cause Donnie Tyndall’s squad to get off their game a bit.
This one won’t be easy, but don’t chalk up a loss just yet. Rhode Island has shown that they’re a very tough team at home this season, and they sure as heck won’t be backing down from a challenge. How do you think this one will play out for URI? Let us know in the comments!