URI (7-3) took down Western Kentucky (7-4) 86-82 in overtime this afternoon. The Hilltoppers were without their big man Charles Bassey, the team’s leader in points, rebounds, and blocks. Bassey suffered a season-ending leg injury against Arkansas, and this was the team’s first test without him. They were up to the test as four players scored in double digits, and Carson Williams led the way with 26 points. Let’s take a dive into what led to the Rams’ success in this one.
The Streak Is Over
Today’s game snapped Fatts Russell’s seven-game streak with 20+ points. Russell still had 15 points but on an inefficient 4-18 display. Because of this, Rhody was forced to find production from a different source.
Tyrese Martin was the scoring leader for Rhody, pouring in 22 points on 9-23 shooting. Although he was not particularly efficient either, Martin surely made his presence felt, especially coupled with his nine rebounds. This was Martin’s season-high, and it was one point shy of his career-high.
Coach Cox made it a point that production from the supporting cast is going to be crucial going forward. “We need that. Getting Fatts’ 20+ points in seven straight games, he can’t do that for the rest of the season, nor should we have to rely on him to do that.”
Perhaps the most anticipated aspect of this matchup was the debut of Antwan Walker. The redshirt sophomore transfer from Georgetown has been around the team for two semesters now, but fans have not been able to see him in action until today. Walker played very well in his first game, adding 10 points and seven rebounds on 5-7 shooting in 18 minutes.
The 6’7″ forward also added two steals and two assists, one of which was a no-look dime to get the Ryan Center fans out of their seats. It will be interesting to see Walker’s role going forward, as he showed the versatility he has to offer.
Cox was planning on easing Walker into action, but his great level of play made it tough to take him out. However, fans can likely expect even more playing time from Walker going forward.
On December 18, it was announced that freshman Gregory Hammond had submitted his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal. Hammond leaves the URI program having played just 13 minutes in four games, averaging 1.3 points per game. The departure of the New Orleans native leaves the Rams without a true backup guard.
Coach Cox said, “We wish Gregory well in the future.”
Missing In Action
Tate missed his second straight game due to a suspension. It is still not known what the suspension is for, or the length of the suspension. The emergence of Walker helped ease the blow, but Tate’s impact off the bench will be needed going forward.
What’s Up Next?
Rhode Island returns to action at Middle Tennessee (4-8) on Sunday, December 29 at 4:30 PM. The Blue Raiders were picked to finish 8th in the C-USA Preseason Poll. This is a must-win game for URI, but they cannot overlook some of the talents on this team. C.J. Jones is averaging 17.6 points per game and Antonio Green was picked to the C-USA Preseason Team.
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