The Rhode Island Rams couldn’t make an eight-point halftime lead stick last night and they dropped a 57-54 decision to the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. As a result, URI now sits at 11-16, and they’re now guaranteed to finish the regular season with a losing record… their third such season in a row. There’s more: Rhody’s losing streak has moved to six straight, and they’ve gone nearly a month without winning a game. With all that said, can we dig up any positives from this one? Let’s check it out.
The Rams have now had three home games – Providence, Saint Louis, and now Saint Joseph’s – where they had a shot to tie or take the lead on the final play. And they’ve created exactly zero good looks at the basket in those games combined. The optimistic fan will point to the fact that those were three stellar opponents; Rhody hung with them for 40 minutes! And the pessimist with question the late game play calling and the inability to close out a W. But why can’t both lines of thinking be accurate?
URI played their fair share of close games last season. The tagline back then was “those losses will be wins next season”. Well, it’s next season… and the Rams are still coming up short in one-possession contests. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Rhode Island has a new go-to guy this season in E.C. Matthews. It stands to reason that he should also be the player with the ball in his hands in the final minute. And he was in two of those three games, including last night. It’s certainly a lot of weight to put on the shoulders of a first-year player. It’s tough to do, but fans need to give him time to be the guy. Growing pains like last night will only help him.
That said, he should at least be getting a good look at the bucket. Whether a shot goes in or not isn’t really a coaching issue, but creating a good shot can be. Better play calling, crisper screens, different schemes… any and all of those can help in the final minute. Rhody does have a lot of young players, and it’s possible that they’re not executing what the coaching staff draws up. No matter what the issue – there’s a lot that can be improved in crunch time. With where URI stands right now, they have some time to work out some of the kinks before next season.
In the meantime, the Rams will try to stop their season-long losing streak. They’re back in action on Saturday when they take on Saint Bonaventure in Olean, NY. Tip-off is set for 4:00 p.m.