Providence beat Rhode Island 59-50 at the Dunkin Donuts Center Saturday night.
How it happened: The Rams scored the game’s first points when Jeff Dowtin chased down Jermaine Harris’ tap on the opening tip and turned it into an easy layup, but few things would be that smooth for URI the rest of the night. A.J. Reeves drilled two 3-pointers to stake PC to a lead it ultimately never lost. A 9-0 run bumped it into double digits before the Rams out-scored the Friars 11-4 over an extended period to get back in striking distance. It was a five-point game with 2:41 left in the half, but the Friars closed with a 9-2 burst, capped by an Isaiah Jackson 3-pointer and two free throws by Jimmy Nichols. Another 3 by Reeves pushed the lead to 15 out of halftime. From there, both teams struggled mightily from the field. URI worked back within seven points but never found enough offense for a run. PC kept the Rams at an arm’s length and grinded out the victory.
What it means: Providence reclaimed Ocean State supremacy a year after URI had broken through. The Friars have won eight of nine overall and eight straight in Providence. In the big picture, given youth and different expectations this year, I don’t know how many URI fans would have expected a rivalry win in a tough environment. The frustrating part for the Rams and their supporters is that the game was there for the taking at several points. Providence scored 20 points in the second half and never pulled away. But the Rams just didn’t have enough offense. That will be remain a big concern moving forward, too, because offensive struggles keep cropping up.
Colder than cold: A week ago, the Rams didn’t have their trademark intensity, executed poorly and took a raft of bad shots in a loss to Stony Brook. Two of those issues have been fixed - the Rams mostly matched PC’s intensity, and the ball moved fairly well on offense, leading to good looks. But the shots still didn’t fall. URI made 17 of 57 shots from the floor for a 30-percent clip and hit only two of 18 3-point tries. Their season shooting percentage fell to 29 percent, with their 3-point percentage at 21. Over their last five games, they’re 14 of 103 from 3-point range.
Middle of the slump: The guy at the center of URI’s struggles is Fatts Russell, who just can’t get anything going these days. The sophomore went 2-of-13 from the field in this one and 1-5 from 3-point range. Russell was a streaky shooter last year, a fact often masked by limited minutes and the big games he had when he was on a good streak. Playing through the ups and downs now with big minutes, Russell has to get going for the Rams to find their way.
The next step: What happens from here at the offensive end? Coach David Cox said there could be changes: “We have a week until our next game. I have to go back and our staff has to go back and really evaluate what we’re doing as a staff. I take this loss on myself. I’ve got to prepare these guys better and possibly make some changes offensively so they’re getting some easier looks.”
Bright in the paint: Cyril Langevine had another big game with his fifth consecutive double-double. He led all scorers with 18 points and added 12 rebounds.
Quotable: “Proud of the fight. We just didn’t have enough tonight.” - Cox
Next: URI has a week off before visiting Holy Cross in Worcester.