Richmond beat URI 69-61 on Sunday afternoon at the Ryan Center.
How it happened: Both teams scuffled in the early going, combining to miss 23 of their first 32 shots. While Richmond snapped out of it, URI fell deeper in, making two field goals in the final 10:06 of the half. The Spiders turned that stretch into a 13-2 run for an 11-point halftime lead, then blitzed URI with a 7-0 run out of halftime. The Rams made a few attempts at chipping away, getting within nine, then eight, then seven, but Richmond had answers each time. The Spiders made five of seven field goals from the 6:29 mark to 2:36 for their final response. Seven points was as close as URI would get.
What it means: Along with a clunker in the non-conference finale against Brown, this loss sends Rams to their first losing streak of the season. It’s surprising given the three straight wins that came before and the overall picture in non-conference play. The Rams seemed to play with a little more spirit than they had against Brown, which should have been enough to make that game an outlier, but their offensive struggles were far too much to overcome. They didn’t look like the same team that generally had things clicking all season, even in defeat; this is a team that scored 83 points against LSU and 81 on the road at West Virginia. The Rams will have to figure things out quickly,as they’re starting A-10 play from an 0-1 hole. It's also their first home loss.
Tough twenty: URI scored 19 points in the first half, its lowest point total in a half all year, and it was as ugly for the Rams as that statistic suggests. They shot seven of 33 from the field and 1 of 10 from 3-point range. The two field goals in 10 minutes meant droughts of 3:46 and 5:22. While the Rams missed some open looks, they mostly weren’t executing to get good shots. They had three assists at halftime. There was improvement in the second half as the Rams made a point of running things through the paint, but the hole was too deep. The offensive struggles of last year that seemed to be firmly in the past can apparently still creep in. Said head coach David Cox: “We have to - as we were early in the year - play for one another. I haven’t seen that in two games. It’s shocking to me, but it’s on me at the same time. I can’t be too surprised - I’m the head coach. I’ve got to get that changed. That’s the big thing right now. We’ve got to play for one another.”
Slow going: Richmond’s style of play exacerbated URI’s problems at the offensive end. The Rams force 17 turnovers per game and often turn a lot of them into points. Richmond is one of the nation’s best at taking care of the ball and turned it over only nine times. That meant few extra opportunities and few fast-break chances for the Rams, who were left to slog their way through a halfcourt game.
Stop-gap: The Rams played better defense than they did against Brown, though the Spiders similarly attacked from 3 and made eight shots from deep. Still, URI did enough defensively to win the game, particularly against a team that ranks second in the league in field goal percentage. The Spiders were held below that average and their scoring average. Defense tends to be the bellcow for the Rams - a sign of the effort and mindset they need to win. They brought more to the table in that department than they did against Brown, a sign that the loss didn’t linger. But the overall response didn’t follow suit.
Key piece: Fatts Russell struggled most among the URI regulars, hitting just 1 of 12 shots for a season-low three points and battling foul trouble in the second half. Russell came in as the leading scorer in the league, but couldn’t get going. It seemed to be a combination of good shots not falling and some forced looks. URI can win a game when Russell is a little off, but it’s a tall task when he’s 1-for-12.
Sub-par: Jeff Dowtin and Cyril Langevine weren’t at their best either. Dowtin scored some points late to finish with 13 but shot 5 of 14 from the field. Langevine had seven points, though he did get 11 rebounds, including the 800th of his career.
Step up: Tyrese Martin always seems to be ready to lend a helping hand when his older teammates are struggling. In this one, he had nine rebounds relatively early in the first half and was aggressive offensively. He finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Jermaine Harris had his fourth straight good performance, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds.
Off the bench: Jacob Toppin had his best game as a Ram with career highs of 12 points and eight rebounds. He also did his best to provide a spark with energy type guys, making a block on a four-on-one break and attempting a chasedown block later in the game. Unfortunately for the Rams, he provided the only bench production. Antwan Walker and Mekhi Long were both scoreless.
Spiders: Richmond put four players in double figures, led by Nathan Cayo’s 19-point, 11-rebound double-double. The Spiders have some pieces and could very well find themselves making a run at a top-four spot in the league.
Quotable: “Coming in today, after two days of, I thought, really good practice and preparation, I had anticipated us playing a much more cohesive game, particularly at the offensive end. And that didn’t happen today, so that will be addressed and that has to be changed moving forward if we plan on winning.” - Cox
Next: Davidson visits the Ryan Center on Wednesday. The Wildcats have been a disappointment so far after being picked second in the league’s preseason poll. They’re currently 6-6 but still have all the firepower that led to that lofty preseason ranking.