The Rhode Island Rams just had their best performance of the season, against a team that dominated them in front of the Ryan Center faithful and absolutely STOLE a conference win on the road against the Dayton Flyers.
The Rams hit the Flyers first, UD came back with a vengeance, a group that’s been learning on the fly and has had youth across the board no matter where you look learned how to play up their competition in a road environment 13,500 strong. Maybe the hardest venue to play in all of Atlantic 10 basketball, and Rhode Island rose to the occasion.
While URI most likely won’t be an NCAA tournament team,(barring a Cinderella run in Brooklyn two weeks from now) this was a huge culture shifting win for this inexperienced Rams team. Fresh off a five-game losing streak, URI has played arguably their two best games of the year these past two games, with a dominating performance over George Washington on Tuesday, and now a ridiculous road effort to all but seal their fate of starting the conference tournament on the second day, instead of with the bottom four teams.
The Rams game plan was apparent starting out, push the pace, move the ball without a second thought, and defend with constant on and off ball pressure. Cyril Langevine was as good as he has been all year, a new career high of 26 points, and just two rebounds shy of another double-double. Langevine was also a team-high +8 when he was on the floor. Simply put, he had a grown man performance when Rhode Island absolutely longed for it. Fatts Russell came into this game with an apparent chip on his shoulder as well, he was held scoreless against Dayton the first time these two teams met but finished this game with 23 points on 9-20 shooting from the field. His three-point shooting is what really stands out, shooting under 20 percent on the year, Russell shot 4-9 from three Friday night. Russell also added six rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Jeff Dowtin added 10 points and five assists of his own, and freshman Dana Tate added a huge nine points off the bench and played terrific frontcourt minutes for Rhode Island with Jermaine Harris, Cyril Langevine, and Christion Thompson in foul trouble for most of the second half.
This game was fought in the low post, with Rhode Island scoring 42 points in the paint and Dayton scoring 40 of their own down low. For the Flyers, Redshirt freshman Obi Toppin continued his dominant freshman year with a dominant performance. In 42 minutes of play, Toppin had 26 points on 11-14 shooting, 11 rebounds to collect a double-double, and also added seven assists because why not. Toppin is the clear cut choice for Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and is a player that is keeping the rest of the conference up at night. A surprise for the Flyers in this game was the ineffectiveness of fifth-year Redshirt senior Josh Cunningham. Cunningham played only 29 minutes and was a team low -15 while on the court. He scored only four points and also grabbed five rebounds. Forward Ryan Mikesell was great for Dayton as well. Mikesell scored 23 points on 70 percent shooting from the field. He also pulled in a double-double by grabbing 11 rebounds as well. As a team Dayton shot poorly from three, making only three in 14 attempts. Dayton also had a 20-7 advantage in free throw attempts and made 17 of those 20.
Rhode Island now looks to finish strong in their last two regular season games, facing Saint Joseph’s University on Hawk Hill on Tuesday, and finishing the season with their Senior day game against regional rival UMass on Saturday. With momentum and starting on Thursday, who knows, maybe the Rams will be able to make some noise in Brooklyn. This is March after all.