KINGSTON – The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball has come down with a case of seasonal depression. The holidays are over, the gifts are gone, the tree is wilting. The Rams are looking hapless two games into 2020, with their latest loss coming at home to Richmond, 69-61.
“We’ve got to get some things fixed,” URI head coach David Cox said, following losses to the Spiders and Brown. “The glaring thing right now is that offensively, we’ve changed over the last couple of games. As a coaching staff, we have to figure this out. We’re not sharing the ball nearly as much. Our shot selection has gone downhill because of that. Our offense is not looking nearly as fluid.”
A sputtering offense has contributed to the Rams first losing streak of the season. A 19-point first half on Sunday afternoon drew out some boo-birds at the Ryan Center. The team shot 4-of-17 on 3-pointers for the game, and had an even assist-to-turnover ratio (nine of each).
Tyrese Martin had the only thing approaching an efficient day in the loss. He had a team-high 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He’s hit double-figure scoring in six of the last seven games.
URI led 9-2 to start on Sunday, but the offense up and vanished after quick buckets by Martin and Jermaine Harris (nine points, four rebounds).
“They were rushed shots,” Cox said of the poor offense. “We had a made in living in those first 10, 11 games, playing with pace and sharing the basketball. We had a few games with 19, 20 assists. Today we had nine assists. Think we had three at the half. It’s a very telling statistic.”
A shooting slump for Fatts Russell continued, but he did lead the team with four dimes. Russell has been one of the more consistent performers for his team. The same can’t be said for the senior duo of Jeff Dowtin and Cyril Langevine.
The two most experienced Ram players were a combined 8-for-22 from the floor during Sunday’s Atlantic 10 opener. Langevine contributed nine rebounds, and Dowtin had a pair of assists.
“We need a lot more,” from those two, said Cox. “Those are our two seniors. Guys that have been through a lot of battles, a lot of wars. There are a lot of ways that they can contribute, let’s not just look at points. Although we could use a few more points from both of those guys.
“Vocal leaders, defensive leaders, rebounding. There are a lot of ways that they can help us get through this right now.”
After falling to an eager Brown team, the Rams had just two days to reset and prepare for Richmond’s unique look.
“Their offense is tailor-made [to be successful against] a very aggressive defense,” Cox said. “We had to pick and choose our spots.
“We were solid on defense. That’s a tough team. Two-day turnaround, all the Princeton stuff that they run. Very good offensive team. I thought we defended at a very high level tonight, but offensively we just didn’t make shots.”
Four Spider players scored in double-figures. Nathan Cayo led the way with 19, while Blake Francis, Nick Sherod, and Grant Golden also moved the scoring needle.
URI managed to cut the deficit down to single digits on a few occasions during the second half. Foul trouble for Russell (four personals) saddled him to the bench for most of the second half. His 30 minutes on court was a season-low.
“With the lack of guard depth, any of those guards getting into foul trouble, it hurts us, absolutely,” Cox said. “We have a very limited amount of guys right now who are eligible to play. When your number is called, you have to go in and produce, in some way.”
All 12 bench points on Sunday came courtesy of freshman Jacob Toppin. His new career-high in points came thanks to frenzied activity around the rim. He stuffed the stat sheet fully, collecting eight rebounds (another new career-best), a block and an assist.
“Before Jacob even got any points, he contributed in a huge way with the rundown block,” Cox said. “Then the attempted rundown block later in the half. He had himself a day in terms of energy.
“He’s playing for the right reasons, the right way. He’s playing to help us win, and not for individual accolades. With that mindset, he’s going to be one hell of a player for us.”
Toppin had a highlight-worthy rejection in the first half. He tried to ride the momentum of his chase-down block by taking a transition 3-pointer. Like most of the jump shots the Rams took on Sunday, it missed.
The Rams again have little time to dwell on the loss. They face Davidson (6-7, 0-1) at home tonight.