Rhode Island bounced back from their loss at #6 Dayton (23-2, 14-0) with a win over St. Joseph’s (4-21, 0-12). After a slow first half, URI took care of business and advanced to 19-6 (12-1). This was a must-win game for Coach Cox’s squad and they are solidifying their spot as the second-best team in the A10. Today’s win was a true team effort as four Rams were in double digits for scoring. Let’s take a deeper dive into what made it a successful afternoon.
Missing In Action
St. Joseph’s caught a tough break as they went into the game with their best player, Ryan Daly. Daly leads all A10 players in scoring with 20.4 points per game and also leads the Hawks in rebounds, assists, and steals. The junior guard was sidelined with an apparent injury, wearing sweatpants and a walking boot on the bench.
Injuries are all too familiar for the struggling Hawks. Junior forward Taylor Funk has played just seven games after averaging 9.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists.
This meant that Cameron Brown came into the game leading all healthy Hawks in scoring with 9.1 points per game. Losing your top scorers would obviously hurt any team, nevermind a winless St. Joe’s. Myles Douglas finished the contest leading the Philly team with 10 points on 2-7 shooting.
Struggles vs. Zone
Rhode Island is most likely going to see a healthy dosage of opposing zone defenses going forward. Just as Massachusetts did, St. Joe’s came out in a zone vs. the Rams. The Hawks played a 1-3-1, daring URI to beat them from deep.
For the first half, this approach was very successful as URI shot 3-12 from downtown and headed into halftime up just 35-31.
The Hawks left the zone for a stretch in the second half, and Rhody took advantage with a 10-0 run to go up 63-43 with 6:01 to go. At this point, it was too late for the Hawks as Rhody cruised to the victory. However, URI did not make a basket in the last 4:06 and finished shooting 1-9.
Teams are beginning to test URI’s ability to hit from deep, and Coach Cox needs to be prepared to see zone from here on out.
Additionally, Jacob Toppin is beginning to make his mark on Kingston. Known largely because of his brother, Dayton star Obi Toppin, Jacob had a great game off the bench. Not only did he have 12 points in 10 minutes, Toppin provided a highlight reel poster. Give it time and Jacob Toppin could be known for his individual success.
“That was big-time,” Coach Cox said of Toppin’s production. “12 points in 10 minutes like The Microwave right there, that’s pretty good. Again, I want him to hang his hat on bringing tremendous energy and giving us a lift on the defensive end, and the offense will come. You guys see how skilled he is: he can shoot the ball, he’s a very unselfish passer and he’s super athletic.”
Toppin credits seniors Dowtin and Langevine for helping him mature over the season. He says they taught him, “every time a coach gets on you, don’t take it personally. They always tell me that, so when Coach got on me in the first half I didn’t take it personally. I took it as a ‘get better,’ so that’s what I did in the second half.
The veterans got after it as well, as Fatts led the way with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists for the Rams. Dowtin added 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Cyril contributed 7 points and 11 rebounds.
What’s Up Next?
Rhody is back in action this Saturday at Davidson (13-11, 7-5). The game can be seen at 5:30 on CBSSN.
“We’ve got a nice little break,” said Coach Cox. “I think a well-deseved break after a long, grueling season thus far.”
This could be a tough game for Rhody, as Davidson is 8-2 at home this year. The Wildcats have been a bit of a disappointment so far after being picked to finish second in the A10 in the preseason poll. Coach Bob McKillop’s team is led by Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson, two very solid players.
As of now, URI is projected to be in the tournament and as long as they take care of business, they should find themselves in the dance. Go, Rhody!
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