Sophomore guard Mike Powell had two steals, eight assists and just two turnovers in 28 minutes of action last night (Credit: University of Rhode Island Media Relations)
Last night, the University of Rhode Island began the Dan Hurley era with an 83-31 victory, defeating an overmatched United States Coast Guard Academy team.
While only so much can be learned from a lopsided tune-up, one thing was plainly evident.
The days permitting opponents to regularly shoot 50% from the floor are over.
A year ago, Rhode Island ranked 321st out of 339 teams in scoring defense, allowing 75.5 points per game. Opponents shot 50% or better in a single half of play in an unbelievable 24 of the Rams’ 31 contests and 50% or better for a full game on 13 different occasions.
Dan Hurley may petition the NCAA Clearinghouse for extra eligibility himself if that happens even once this year.
Hyperbole aside, the defensive intensity Rhode Island exhibited last night has not been seen in quite some time. Whether down 7-6 (as they were before scoring 21 straight points) or up by 40, the Rams carried the effort throughout.
“It is our calling card,” said newcomer Xavier Munford after the game.
It has to be.
This Rams team will struggle to score points with only Nikola Malesevic, Andre Malone and Munford as legitimate night-in, night-out threats.
But one facet of the game which can always be controlled is defensive energy, effort and exertion. Hurley knows that his team must be married to that side of the ball to weather the inevitable scoring droughts that will surface against higher quality opponents. Staying out of foul trouble [thin bench] and generating double-digit points off turnovers on a game-to-game basis will be critical to the Rams’ success this year.
So seeing Rhode Island relentless and swarming on the perimeter was a positive takeaway.
And a statement that the days of 90-80 games in Kingston are a thing of the past.
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