URI beat George Washington 80-53 at the Ryan Center Tuesday night.
How it happened: The Rams made seven of their first nine 3-point shots to signal the start of their best shooting night in a long time. An early 8-0 run powered by Fatts Russell and a 12-2 spurt later in the half pushed the lead to 18. George Washington made a late run to get within 13 at halftime but the lead was never in jeopardy. URI outscored the Colonials 12-6 over the first six minutes of the half and never looked back.
What it means: URI desperately needed both a win and a shooting performance like this. Given the team’s inconsistency this season, sustaining is the next challenge, but it’s one the Rams don’t have to think about tonight. The opponent provides a bit of a caveat - GW came in at 8-19 and 4-10 in A-10 play - but URI struggled with a Fordham team that’s been even worse in conference action. And really, the Rams could have been playing Little Sisters of the Poor and they would have been happy with their performance. They needed to feel good about themselves again. While the next test is a stiff one - Friday at Dayton - URI has some true positives to hook into as it heads down the season’s final stretch.
Falling shots: In its five-game losing streak, URI shot 33 percent from the field and made a total of 16 3-pointers. Tuesday, the Rams hit on 54 percent - the best mark since January - and made 10 3-pointers, just the second time this season they’ve reached double digits. The 48 percent clip was the best since the season opener. This deep into the year, URI clearly can’t bank on shooting well from outside as a path to victory, but there has to be a confidence boost from a performance like that.
Trending up: There were a number of other positive indicators, too. URI tallied 20 assists on its 32 made baskets, the most since the season opener (of course, making shots helps that cause). At the defensive end, URI recorded a season-high 15 steals and held GW to 24 percent shooting in the second half. Faltering defense had been more worrying trend for URI in the losing streak than the continued shooting woes. If URI can get back to its defensive roots, it will at least give itself a shot to make a late push.
Zoned out: When’s the last time a team was forced out of a zone defense against URI? George Washington opened in the 2-3, a familiar sight among URI opponents, but had switched to man-to-man by the latter part of the first half.
Shooting star: Jeff Dowtin led the 3-point improvement, going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 16 points. He also had five assists and didn’t commit a turnover.
Right direction: Fatts Russell was 5-of-8 from the field in the first half. He went 0-for-4 in the second, but finished with 14 points and also handed out five assists without a turnover.
Helping hands: URI totaled 24 bench points, the most it’s had in A-10 play. Christion Thompson led the effort with eight points - to go with four steals - while Omar Silverio and Dana Tate had five each. Seeing his first action since his suspension, Ryan Preston scored six points.
Quotable: “The basketball gods finally took care of us. For the last three or four games, I’ve seen it in these guys’ eyes. I’ve seen it every day in their work ethic. These guys have lived in the gym. They’ve been extremely coachable. They haven’t started making excuses or pointing fingers at one another even though it’s been a tough streak.” - David Cox
Next: URI visits Dayton Friday night.