The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team has encountered rough waters at the start of Atlantic 10 play, and there’s an undercurrent, too.
Everybody in the league wants a piece of the Rams.
“Every team knows we’ve been champions for the last two years, so they’re going to come and give us their all every time,” junior forward Cyril Langevine said. “We’ve got to go out there with toughness and have the right mentality – play harder and just do the little things to get the win.”
The Rams didn’t feel they did that in Sunday’s 84-67 loss to George Mason at the Ryan Center. The game got away from them early and comeback efforts went for naught down the stretch, with the Patriots holding off every charge.
“Embarrassing effort on our behalf,” head coach David Cox said. “We were outcoached, we were outplayed, we were outworked thoroughly and the result was an almost 20-point loss on our home court.”
The Rams fell to 1-2 in A-10 play, an unfamiliar spot on the heels of last year’s 13-0 start to conference action. They were slated to take on St. Bonaventure Wednesday, with results unavailable at press time.
Coming off a solid showing at preseason favorite St. Louis and the best offensive night of the year in a win over Richmond, the Rams were looking for more positive steps against George Mason. Instead, they slid backwards. On the offensive end, they missed their first 15 3-point attempts and finished 3-for-25. Defensively, they struggled to slow down the Patriots, who shot 52 percent from the field.
It was the second time this season – along with a November defeat against Stony Brook – that a loss left Cox talking about a brand of basketball that had gone missing.
“I need to find five guys who are going to be willing and committed to playing Rhode Island basketball with the toughness, the physicality that we always have played this game with,” Cox said. “I had trouble finding that today. Trust me, beginning tomorrow, I will identify those guys, whether it’s five guys or seven or what have you. I will find those guys and we will right this ship come Wednesday.”
After the Stony Brook loss, URI quickly found itself in a blowout of Brown. Practices early this week have the Rams hoping to chart a similar course.
“These probably were the two most important practices we had all year,” freshman Tyrese Martin said. “Coming off the loss we had, coach was hard on us about how we have to pick it up more than we have all season.”
More teams will be gunning for URI as A-10 play continues, but the Rams are more concerned with themselves right now.
“No more excuses. I’m done with the excuses,” Cox said. “The freshmen are no longer freshmen, 15 games into the season. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or what the other team’s mindset is. We must have the same mindset approaching every game. It doesn’t matter if we’re at home or we’re away. If it’s a business trip or they’re here with distractions. They have to fight those distractions. We’re in season now. We’re in conference play. These games mean a lot. We’re the defending champions of this conference. No more excuses. We have to play the right way.”