It’s been two games for Rhode Island Rams basketball, and we’ve already seen two completely different teams take the floor.
The Rams opened the season wonderfully. In David Cox’s head coaching debut with URI, Rhody ran the Bryant Bulldogs out of the Ryan Center, 97-63. They jumped out to an 11-0 lead right away, behind 8 points from Fatts Russell, and never looked back. Jeff Dowtin’s buzzer-beating three to close out the first half made it 49-32 in favor of the Rams.
Russell had 21 on the night in what was a similar second half. Dowtin contributed 17 points of his own, and added nine assists and seven boards. Christion Thompson, in his return after missing two years due to an injury, gave 14 points off of four three pointers and a pair of free throws.
The Rams looked good last week. Really good. Russell and Dowtin looked like they could handle the scoring load with ease, and the five freshman all combined for 23 points. Some figured, should they beat the College of Charleston on the road, they may get votes for the top 25. Maybe.
The conversation didn’t last long, though.
Rhody looked completely different Tuesday night in Charleston.
They came out of the gates terribly. The Rams began the game shooting 2-for-19, and finished the first half with a bismal shooting percentage- 22.9 percent (8-for-35) from the field.
The second half was an improvement. Rhode Island went 14-for-29 from the field and nearly clawed their way back into the game, bringing it to within 8 in the final minutes of play. However, whenever the Rams would get close, Charleston would get a bucket, and eventually it was too much for URI as Cox took his first loss with the program, 66-55.
After leading all scorers just a week ago, Russell was nowhere to be found, finishing with only two field goals on 15 tries. He scored six points, and was 0-for-10 from beyond the arc. Cyril Langevine led the Rams with 18 points and 8 boards, and Dowtin added 16 points on the night. At times, the offense looked stagnant, with no motion or purpose other than the guards trying to find themselves a shot.
What to Expect
The Rams are young. Even Russell and Dowtin are adapting into new roles. Russell is a volume shooter, and at his age, nights like this are going to happen. E.C Matthews and Jared Terrell didn’t average 20-per-game each year they came here, and they certainly weren’t carrying a team of freshmen in just their sophomore year. Dowtin has shown consistency, with double-digit performances both nights. It seems as if his scoring comes easily and within the flow of the game, that it’s almost expected of him.
We’ve seen these two light up the scoreboard, and we’ll see it again and again. However, perfection isn’t a reality. No one can shoot the lights out of the gym on a nightly basis. With such a young team, there is no one to take over the scoring load on nights like this. At least not yet.
Last year’s squad was years in the making. This year’s team, while just as talented, hasn’t been blended together yet. It’s absurd to think they would fire on all cylinders, like the Bryant game, all season long. Inconsistency is going to happen.
It is important to note that this was the team’s first road game in the David Cox era; Fatts Russell’s first road game as the expected scoring leader; Jermaine Harris and Dana Tate and Tyrese Martin and Omar Silverio’s first experience of another college stadium’s gameday. A victory would have almost been a miracle.
This team is going to lose games like this, it’s part of the process. There are bumps in the road, learning curves, growing pains, whatever cliche fits. After the two games, I can guarantee one thing: the Bryant win wasn’t the peak, and the Charleston loss wasn’t the valley. Fasten your seatbelts, Rhody fans. We’re in for a roller coaster of a season. Next stop, a visit from the Harvard Crimson on Friday night in Kingston.
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