Amid the excitement of Rhode Island’s huge recruiting news from yesterday, let’s not forget that they still have a big game coming up tonight. And now that the Rams have one Atlantic 10 road win in the books… why not two? Rhody gets another crack at the UMass Minutemen tonight, and they’ll try to even the score after dropping a 73-68 decision in Kingston earlier this month. Here’s how they can flip the script.
1. The M Word
Momentum. It’s been a while since URI has had some, but there has to be a lot of positivity within the program right now. The Rams are coming off a huge win, they’ve got a six-time A-10 Rookie of the Week on their roster, and they’ve just landed a game-changing recruit (even if they can’t talk about it publicly). The Minutemen are likely feeling the same kind of energy, especially following their big 80-75 win over VCU on Friday night. Looks like we’re in for a battle.
2. Control the Pace
This was Rhody’s ultimate downfall the last time these two teams met. Rhode Island hung with UMass for 36 minutes before they ran out of gas at the end. It’s not easy, especially when the Minutemen have the depth to run a team ragged, but the Rams should try to slow tonight’s game down. If at all possible. Obviously it’s not the style of ball that Dan Hurley teams like to play, but it may be the only way to avoid another slump in the final minutes.
3. E.C. and X. Again.
Or X and E.C. – whichever you prefer. As they go, so go the Rams… for the most part. The two stars are coming off a tremendous game that got URI back into the win column against the Bonnies over the weekend. And it’s becoming evident that merely one or the other is not enough. Rhody needs contributions from both guards to pick up the win. Luckily, we know they can do it against UMass. The pair combined for 43 of Rhode Island’s 68 points earlier this month… but Rhody still came up short. So it’s not a guaranteed win when the two light up the scoreboard, but it can’t hurt.
4. Shot Selection
Obviously there was one in particular that hurt more than the rest, but blocked shots were an issue for URI on February 9th. The Minutemen tallied 10 swats that afternoon, and Raphiael Putney led the way with four. UMass has a clear size advantage, but the Rams still should be able to make adjustments and avoid those kind of block totals tonight. Patience, extra passes, and crisper execution can all lead to better looks.
5. Beasts on the Boards
Easier said than done. Massachusetts held a 36-27 advantage on the glass in Kingston, which isn’t exactly surprising. The Minutemen are averaging 39.1 rebounds per game, good for 19th in the country. So URI has their work cut out for them – they’ll need to have all hands on deck (read: no foul trouble) as they try to control the boards tonight.
UMass came into Kingston and escaped with a big road win a few weeks ago. Now it’s time for Rhody to return the favor.