If you haven’t heard yet, the University of Rhode Island Rams basketball team is good. Like REALLY good.
Entering last week, the best team in New England found themselves ranked their highest in program history, at 16 (or 14 depending on which ranking system you prefer).
With two games played over Valentine’s week, the team found themselves with the longest winning streak in the entire nation (16 games) following an eighteen point win over the Richmond Spiders, after fifth ranked Cincinnati fell to the University of Houston.
The Rams, who start four guards and one power forward on a regular basis, were able to win despite starting big man Andre Berry racking up a season low zero rebounds. His backup, Cyril Langevine, was able to supply a team leading six rebounds however, while also contributing fifteen points.
On the other hand, all of the guards were able to step up and play well. The team’s leading scorer, E.C. Matthews suffered a knee injury, that limited him to only two points. Five other guards were on the court for a minimum of nineteen minutes apiece to contribute towards the victory.
The 247th victory of head coach Dan Hurley’s coaching career was unfortunately faced with one question. Would Matthews be alright? Their nation leading win streak began after the senior broke his wrist early in the season.
The new injury occurred right before URI took to the road to face their toughest divisional rival. St. Bonaventure, the highest rated team in the Atlantic 10 entering Conference play in January, has a similar playing style to URI’s. With elite guard play, it would not be an easy road game.
Having defeated the Bonnies at home earlier this season, the opponents were seeking revenge. They were able to get it. A game that came down to the final minutes, the Ram’s winning streak was snapped as the Upstate New York school won by three. Matthews, who was cleared to play, was held without any points in the first half. Led by Jared Tyrell, the guards played well.
For the forwards, Berry got the start as the only again, and again saw his rebounds limited. Scoring early, he could not continue playing well. Slow up and down the court, missed defensive opportunities hindered Berry. Langevine, who was able to nab ten boards off the bench, played double the minutes of “Dre.” Both players guarded at the top of the key at times, enabling St. Bonaventure players to be wide open beneath the basket.
With teams ranked lower than URI defeating top ten teams, the Rams find themselves ranked 18th. At least one team ranked within last week’s top 25 found themselves losing every day since Tuesday the 13th (Including PC’s win over Villanova). This softens the blow in the rankings the Rams face.
This week the Rams will square off with La Salle and Dayton
Tyler’s Tickets to URI victories
Bench Berry: They can win with him on the court. They have played well with him starting every game this season. But they have also played well with the youngster Cyril Langevine on the floor. Langevine has been receiving more minutes for a reason, and that is his athleticism. Not looking exhausted every time he runs down the court helps too. With only four rebounds over his last three games (all starts), the team needs to become accustomed to seeing Langevine at the beginning of games. They won’t win in March with Andre Berry on the court.
With E.C. it’s Easy: Scoring opportunities need to be available for the best player, and the rest of the team needs to be sure of it. After being shut out in the first half versus the Bonnies, Matthews recovered with a fourteen point second half. Had he scored even one basket in the first half, it could have been a different ballgame. La Salle and Dayton (12-14) are weaker teams the St. Bonaventure, but E.C.’s efficiency is the biggest key to any victory. Resting him could also be beneficial if he is not at full strength.
Layups with Layssard: Mike Layssard, a 6’8” sophomore has seen very limited time on the court. With Langevine and Berry being the same height, and Layssard looking decent during his extremely limited time on the court, it could be beneficial to increase the playing time of the forward to give him more experience for if he is needed down the stretch. Especially if they can find some garbage time late in games, letting the two-time LouisianaR High School all-stater get exposure can only help.
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