It was a dominant win for St. Louis, as Rhode Island didn’t lead for a second. St. Louis now improves to 21-8 (10-6), while the Rams fall to 20-8 (12-4). The biggest takeaway from this game is its effect on URI’s NCAA Tournament chances. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has their tournament probability falling from 82% to 67% after today’s loss. Let’s take a dive into what went wrong for the Rams.

Bully Ball

“That’s who they are. They pound the ball inside and we couldn’t match their physicality. That’s what they do.”

Coach Cox knew exactly what to expect when the Billikens came to the Ryan Center, and there was no shortage of execution. Led by Hasahn French and Jordan Goodwin, St. Louis had a 44-26 rebounding advantage and outscored Rhody 56-30 in the paint. When you face a team that has two players averaging a double-double, you can’t get upset that they rebound well and score in the paint. However, there are aspects of URI to examine in order to understand the jarring discrepancies.

For starters, Jermaine Harris plainly has not been the player many Rhody fans have expected. Today further proved that as the sophomore big had 0 points and 1 rebound in 9 minutes. Obviously it is a team effort and it is unfair to put the blame solely on Harris’ shoulders. However, Jermaine will need to develop in order to fill the loss of Cyril next year, especially since Rhody has yet to have a big man commit.

This also shows Rhody’s lack of depth, and it’s beginning to catch up with them. Their eight-man rotation is difficult to sustain, especially after a grueling conference schedule. Rhody has no true big off the bench, which clearly led to the rebounding disadvantage. After not having Cyril Langevine last game, URI now had an injured ankle for Jeff Dowtin.

“I didn’t think I would get him to 31 minutes today,” Coach Cox said. “He hadn’t practice in over a week, he hadn’t run on it at all until today.”

With some rest and evaluation, this problems can be addressed, but it’s not a quick fix.

Old Habits Die Hard

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: URI struggled from behind the arc today.

This is clearly a weakness for the Rams, as they’re now shooting 31.4% as a team from deep. They shot 3-18 today, good for 17%. That is perfectly on par in terms of volume, as the Rams average 18.0 three-point attempts per game.

At this point, Rhode Island is not just going to learn to shoot better. Undoubtedly this is the worst area of their game, and it has been since the beginning of last season. This goes to show how important the transition offense is to their success.

Fatts Russell set the Rhode Island single-game record with eight steals, and it allowed the Rams to outscore St. Louis in the fast break. However, the rest of Coach Cox’s squad combined for just one steal. The Rhody offense has proven time and time again that their lack of shooting makes it difficult to find success in their half-court offense. With this in mind, the Rams need to get back to their aggressive defense and push the tempo going forward. If it comes at the expense of three-point attempts, so be it.

What’s Up Next?

Next, Rhody will host a rematch with #4 Dayton (27-2, 16-0). The Flyers will most likely jump into the top 3 in Monday’s AP Poll after a loss from #2 on Saturday. Previously, URI fell 81-67 at Dayton on 02/11. This is obviously a crucial matchup as Rhody looks to get back on the right side of the bubble.

In that matchup, the Flyers were led by the three-headed attack of Obi Toppin (22 points, 10 rebounds), Jalen Crutcher (21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists), and Trey Landers (10 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists). The Rams received a 19 point performance from Fatts Russell and a double-double from Cyril Langevine but it was ultimately not enough.

Since then, Dayton has increased their win streak to 18 games and clinched the A10 regular-season title. Obi Toppin continues to dominate and is on Wooden, Naismith, Olson, Robertson, NABC & Malone Watch Lists.

Although Dayton has been dominant, no road game is easy, especially in conference play. The Rams are now 12-2 at home, and the Ryan Center should provide an electric atmosphere as they look to avenge today’s loss. The game can be seen at 9:00 on Wednesday on CBSSN.

Go Rhody!

On Twitter: @nicksimeone20