URI has extended its win streak to five games, defeating Duquesne to advance to 13-5 (5-1). Rhody is now tied for second place in the Atlantic 10 and improves to 9-1 at the Ryan Center. A familiar duo led the Rams, as Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell combined for 40 points and 5-8 shooting from deep.
However, Coach Cox made certain not to overlook the significance of this game for URI. The matchup with Duquesne was highlighted as, “Coaches vs. Cancer Night,” in support of the American Cancer Society. Cox and his staff wore sneakers on the sideline, “as a reminder of the importance of healthy lifestyle choices, including eating right, exercising, and following screening guidelines in reducing the risk of cancer.” (gorhody.com) The first 1,000 students also received free t-shirts courtesy of South County Health Cancer Center.
“I’m honored and humbled to be a small part of such a good cause,” Cox said. “I’ve had immediate family members who have suffered from this, who battle with it currently, and I’m sure many of you are as well. So let’s not forget the actual cause today.”
Now onto the basketball.
Rhody entered the second half down eight points, in large part to getting outworked on the glass. Cyril Langevine only played two minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls, and his presence was missed. The Dukes outrebounded the Rams 25-15 in the first half and had 14 second-chance points. Obviously, this was a point of emphasis that Cox knew needed to be addressed.
“We were talking about the offensive rebounds (at the half), how they kept getting second-chance points,” Fatts Russell said. “And I kept hearing Cyril say, ‘I’m coming. I’m coming.’ That made me feel better because I knew our anchor was coming in in the second half.”
The halftime adjustment worked, as Rhody outrebounded Duquesne 23-17 in the second half. Duquesne also had just 2 second-chance points. Cyril contributed two rebounds and two blocks, anchoring the paint for URI. In addition, Tyrese Martin added seven rebounds in the second half.
“He’s so versatile,” Cox said of Martin, “he can score, he can defend multiple positions, and obviously he can bang down there in the post and get on the glass.”
After the tough first half, Rhody dominated the second half, 47-17. They achieved this with suffocating defense, going on runs of at least 5-0 five times. As shown all season, URI is at their best when they turn defense into offense. That is exactly what they did, forcing 9 turnovers, scoring 14 points off turnovers.
Fatts Russell was named to the Naismith Midseason Defensive Player of the Year Team today, second in the nation with 3.2 steals per game. He continued his pesky on-ball defense with four steals, three in the second half.
“When the crowd starts getting loud, I know we’re doing something right,” Russell said.
Rhody’s largest run was 12-0 and ended the game on a 7-0 run as well.
What’s Up Next?
Next up, URI will face St. Bonaventure (12-7, 4-2) on the road. The two will meet at 3:00 PM this Saturday as the Rams look to extend their win streak to six games. Currently ranked at 60 in KenPom, URI is continuing the build an impressive resume for March Madness. However, the main focus is an A10 regular-season title.
The Bonnies are led by sophomore guard Kyle Lofton (14.5 PPG, 6.5 APG, 1.4 SPG) and head coach Mark Schmidt.
“We’ve got a heck of a game coming up. We’ve got another quick two-day turnaround on the road against, I think, one of the best coaches in college basketball.” Coach Cox stated how important it is for the Rams to key in on this matchup, “that’s all I’m thinking of right now.”
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