The first fifteen games of the 2013-14 Rhode Island Rams season has certainly has it’s fair share of ups and downs. And it’s safe to say that yesterday’s 74-70 win over the LSU Tigers qualifies as an up… to say the least. Coming into yesterday’s action, LSU’s only two losses on the season were to teams currently ranked in the Top 25. In fact, the Tigers received a vote of their own in the latest AP poll. It appears that someone forgot to tell the Rams, because they rolled into Baton Rouge and picked up their biggest win of the season thus far. Let’s take a look at how they did it.
The biggest key to the win was URI’s performance on the glass. The Tigers are one of the better rebounding teams in the country, but Dan Hurley had a game plan and the team executed it perfectly. Rhody won the battle of the boards 46-32, and it was a huge key to their big victory. Here’s what coach Hurley had to say on his team’s rebounding.
“I think we obviously rebounded. We were concerned. Our pre-game goal was to be plus one. We ended up being plus fourteen. If you go back and watch that last minute, they had chances to get tip-ins during some of those wild skirmishes. We had perimeter guys who were flying in and swatting the ball away. Our effort was just amazing today.”
Rebounds will only get a team so far, though. The Rams also needed to find scoring in this one. Enter Xavier Munford, E.C. Matthews, and Gilvydas Biruta. The URI trio accounted for 57 of Rhody’s 74 points, and all three seem to be finding their grooves at the perfect time. Matthews led the way with 21 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. Biruta added a double-double (19 points, 14 rebounds), and Munford chipped in with 17 points, six rebounds, and a pair of blocks. If these three stars can keep it rolling into conference play, Rhode Island is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
The only real negative from this one was the turnovers. The Rams struggled with the LSU press all night, resulting in them coughing up the ball a season-high 22 times. The good news is that they weren’t exactly unforced errors – the Tigers logged 19 steals for the game. Biggie Minnis committed a game-high eight turnovers for the Rams, but that’s mostly a result of the fact that he has the ball in his hand more often than not. He is the point guard after all. If URI can figure out how to handle pressure a little better, they’ll be in great shape going forward.
So the non-conference schedule wraps up with a 9-6 record. Now Atlantic 10 play begins, with Rhody playing their best basketball of the Dan Hurley era. The Rams will go for three in a row when they take on the defending A-10 champions Tuesday night. Rhode Island welcomes Saint Louis to the Ryan Center for a 7:00 p.m. tip.