Let’s dial back the panic a little. Yes, the Rhode Island Rams have started conference play 0-3. Yes, they’re currently mired in their longest losing streak of the season. But there’s at least one shred of good news: the schedule is about to get easier. Well, a little easier. It’s still the Atlantic 10, after all. Rhody will face a team with a losing record for the first time in nearly a month when they welcome the 7-10 (0-3) George Mason Patriots to the Ryan Center tomorrow. It’ll be URI’s second crack at Mason; the Patriots topped the Rams 61-54 back on November 30th. Here’s how Rhody can even the score:
1. Lineup Shake-Up?
We mentioned this yesterday, but it’s quite possible that there could be yet another change in the Rhode Island staring lineup tomorrow. Dan Hurley recently hinted at shifting Biggie Minnis to the bench, which likely means T.J. Buchanan shifts into the point guard slot. Regardless of who’s on the floor for tip-off, can Rhody get off to a fast start? Given their recent struggles in that department, something has to change. Maybe it’s the lineup.
2. Ball Movement
When the Rams and Patriots last faced off, URI certainly had some issues sharing the ball. Dan Hurley’s squad tallied just four turnovers a month and a half ago, which marks a season low to date. Rhode Island has certainly made strides in that department as they’ve posted double-digit dimes in their last three contests. If they can keep it up, it could be the difference maker tomorrow afternoon.
3. Put a Body on Jenkins
Between Sherrod Wright and Marko Gujanicic, Rhody will have their hands full containing the Mason offense. But one guy who slipped through the cracks last time out was Jalen Jenkins. The freshman came off the bench and scored nine points to go along with 11 boards and five blocks in just 17 minutes. Talk about making the most of your time on the floor. Rhody will have to do a better job against Jenkins this time around, and Hassan Martin seems to be a solid candidate for the job.
4. E.C. Resurgence
A freshman going through a bit of a slump isn’t exactly shocking, no matter who it is. But for E.C. Matthews, tomorrow seems like the perfect time to bust out of it. Matthews has been having a tough go of it in conference play, finishing with single-digit point totals in his last two games. He did pour in 17 in the A-10 opener against Saint Louis, but he shot just 4-12 and registered one rebound and 0 assists. Before the SLU game, it really seemed like E.C. was taking off. It’s time to get back to those kind of games.
5. Just Win, Baby
Forget the last three games, forget what happened at George Mason last time around, and just come out and WIN. Yeah, this isn’t exactly a “key to the game”, but it’s a key for Rhody fans right now. Seeing the Rams drop below .500 after such an encouraging stretch would be tough. A victory would get us all off the ledge.
So what do you think – good feeling or bad feeling about this one? Let us know in the comments!