KINGSTON – URI took on a competitive Nicholls State team last night and came away with a 70-65 victory over the Colonels. Although being picked to finish 11th in the Southland conference in the preseason coaches poll, Nicholls State is no slouch. They pulled off a road victory vs. Pittsburgh, took Illinois to overtime and played a tight matchup vs. #23 LSU. They are known for their aggressive defense, coming into the game ranked sixth in the nation in steals and ninth in opponent turnovers. The Colonels brought that same intensity to the Ryan Center, as they had nine steals and created 16 turnovers. However, URI came out with a victory for a number of reasons.
Surviving The Run:
Rhody showed tremendous growth and maturity last night when they survived a Nicholls State 10-0 run to open the second half. It was a gut check for the Rams, as Cyril Langevine got his fourth personal foul with 18:06 remaining and Nicholls coming out hot. However, URI responded tremendously, tying the game with 13:49 remaining. The game then went back and forth, with Nicholls leading by as much as seven. Although, when Langevine subbed back in, Rhody didn’t look back as Cyril hit the game-winning and-1 with 1:10 to go.
This is exactly the type of game Rhode Island would have struggled in last year, but their fight is a sign of maturity. Coach Cox credits the leadership of his upperclassmen, Langevine, Fatts Russell, and Jeff Dowtin.
“I’ve told this team a number of times, ‘I can lead you and get you to a certain level but championship-caliber teams are player lead teams.’ And we’ve got three fantastic leaders on this team, and all of them stepped up…”
Fatts has undoubtedly stepped up to the plate for the Rams this year, and last night was another example of it. After an injury scare in the first half, Russell returned and provided a spark for the Rhody offense. Fatts returned from the locker room with 5:57 remaining in the first half, and URI went on a 7-0 run, all of which came from Russell. He finished the night with 24 points, 6 assists, and 5 steals.
“I just felt like my team was a little down… I could feel the energy (was down) so I knew they needed a spark, and that’s what I try to do.”
He is averaging 21.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 4.0 SPG in URI wins this year. His defensive pressure is possibly his most valuable asset, as he excels at turning defense into offense. URI once again struggled from deep last night, shooting 3-16, but they had 18 points off of turnovers. If this team is going to continue to struggle from deep, points off of turnovers/fastbreak points are a priority.
What’s Up Next?
This game was part of the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic. Both teams will now head to Montego Bay to play two more games in that series. Rhode Island will play North Texas (2-3) on Friday at 4:30 on CBSSN, and LSU (3-1) on Sunday at 2:30 PM on CBSSN. These games present a great opportunity for the Rams, as they look to bolster their tournament resume.
Coach Cox said, “It’s a business trip. I want these guys to enjoy the experience, absolutely, but we are going down there to get wins.”