KINGSTON – URI has improved to 6-3 after a 75-61 victory over Providence (5-5). The Rams were once again led by Fatts Russell, who now has seven consecutive games with 20+ points. Cyril Langevine contributed his fair share as well, with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Providence has certainly disappointed to start the year, but this was still an impressive victory for Rhody, as they took down their rival in front of 8,052 fans.
Another major contributor tonight was Mehki Long. The freshman was thrown into the fire, as he played a career-high 22 tonight. This was due to two early offensive fouls from Jermaine Harris and the suspension of Dana Tate.
“He was suspended for violation of team rules, and we’ll leave it at that,” Coach Cox said. As far as the suspension length, “I haven’t made up my mind on that yet. We’ll review that actually.”
Nonetheless, Mehki Long took advantage of his opportunity. With 9 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, Long has made a case for himself to play more consistent minutes off of the bench. Jacob Toppin also played additional minutes, a career-high of 25. Although he had just 5 points, the freshman came down with 5 rebounds and a massive swat.
Playing to Your Strengths
Coach Cox had some high praise for the Friars, “they’re bigger than us, they’re deeper than us, they’re probably bigger, stronger and more athletic than us.” However, there was one aspect where the Rams had the edge.
“Our advantage was speed.”
Cox said the team put an emphasis on getting into the passing lanes, creating deflections, and allowing the team to run the floor – turning defense into offense. This is an area where the Rams have flourished all year, particularly because of the aggressive defensive nature of Fatts Russell. Tonight they forced 22 turnovers out of PC, creating 28 points off of turnovers and 21 fastbreak points.
URI undoubtedly has the speed and defensive tenacity to wreak havoc on a consistent basis. That is necessary to success for a team that shot just 41.3%/35.0%/59.3%. Offensive woes are not unfamiliar to this URI team, but Coach Cox has done a great job of making defense a priority.
What’s Up Next?
The Rams will get a break before taking on Western Kentucky at home on the 21st. Western Kentucky (6-3) was picked to finish first in the Conference USA Preseason Poll and is currently the 94th ranked team in the country according to KenPom. They are led by sophomore Charles Bassey, who averages 15.9 PPG/9.6 RPG/1.7 BPG. It will be an intriguing matchup to watch between Bassey and Cyril Langevine.
URI fans will also get their first glimpse of Antwan Walker. The sophomore transfer from Georgetown had to sit out the first semester of this season, but his debut will be highly anticipated. If Dana Tate is out again, 6’9″ wing could surely get serious minutes out of the gates.
For now, the Rams will enjoy their win over the Friars. To quote Fatts Russell, “Do you guys think it’s a rivalry?”
On Twitter: @NickSimeone20