So does this sound familiar to anyone? Tonight, the Rhode Island Rams will be taking on a team whose only two losses have come to ranked teams. They’ll be facing a squad that’s receiving Top 25 votes. And they’re heading into this evening’s game as the underdog. Things worked out pretty well the last time this happened, right?
Rhody will open up Atlantic 10 play tonight when they take on the Saint Louis Billikens at the Ryan Center in what figures to be another tough game. The good news is that URI is playing their best ball of the Dan Hurley era right now. Plus, they’ll be at home, so this one could easily go either way. Here’s what the Rams will need to do to tilt things in their favor.
1. Keep the Offense Coming
There have been slumps here and there, but the Rhode Island offense has been firing on all cylinders as of late. Xavier Munford, E.C. Matthews, and Gilvydas Biruta have been putting up the kind of numbers that win games, and it needs to continue tonight. Simply put, SLU doesn’t give up a lot of points. They’re allowing just 57.5 per game, far and away the leader in the A-10. The Rams are going to have to find a way to put up some points tonight against a tough Billikens D.
2. Dial Back the Turnovers
First, some good news: Rhody won’t be facing the kind of press that they faced against LSU when they take the court tonight. That said, Saint Louis has a heck of a defense, and they can certainly create problems for opposing offenses. The opposition has just a 0.59 assist-to-turnover radio against the Billikens, second to only VCU in the conference. Ball control needs to be at a premium for URI tonight – another 20-ish turnover performance will most likely lead to a loss.
3. Stay Active on the Boards
It doesn’t get much closer than this. Rhode Island leads the A-10 on the glass with 555 rebounds, spread out over 15 games. Saint Louis? 554 rebounds in 15 games. So sounds like they’re pretty evenly matched. Can the Rams win the battle on the board once again? They came up big against the Tigers, and URI was at a very clear disadvantage coming into Baton Rouge. It’s hard not to like their chances against their mirror image.
4. Keep Evans Under Control
It can be done. Dwayne Evans, SLU’s senior swingman, has been the go-to scorer for the Billkens this season. The 6’6″ forward leads the team with 14.9 points per game, and he’s reached double-figured in 12 of their 15 contests so far. But he’s not unstoppable; in fact, his three single-digit games have all come in his last five. Naturally, foul trouble is partly to blame for his off-nights. If the Rams can’t contain his scoring, Plan B should be to take the ball right to him on offense and see if he’ll commit a few quick fouls.
5. Get the Ryan Center ROCKING!
This isn’t a key for URI per se, but it can’t hurt. The bottom line is that this team deserves a raucous crowd tonight. They’re playing great, they’re coming off a huge win, and the fans should be there to let them know that they appreciate Saturday’s effort. Oh, and the game is on national TV. Students or no students, the Ryan Center should be jumping tonight.
Can Rhody lock up their longest winning streak of the Dan Hurley era? Let us know your thoughts in the comments as the Rams go for three straight.