Dayton beat URI 84-57 on Wednesday night at the Ryan Center.
How it happened: The Rams avoided the bad start that cost them in their trip to Dayton, shaking off a brief cold spell for an early 7-7 tie, but that was about as good as it got for the home team. Two 7-0 runs gave the Flyers control and they opened up a 16-point halftime lead as URI didn’t make a field goal in the final 4:14 of the half. The Rams got as close as 12 ealry in the second half before Dayton turned on the jets and pulled far away, eventually leading by 29.
What it means: The game may have been the last stand for URI’s NCAA at-large hopes, and Dayton was just too good for Rhody to sniff an upset. While the bubble is always unpredictable, the Rams will likely need to win the A-10 Tournament to make the field. For now, URI needs to beat UMass in Saturday’s finale or risk falling out of the double-bye in Brooklyn. Outside of all that, URI will be trying to find a way to get better because it was a rough stretch even before this one. The Rams have lost four of their last six, including two straight at home.
Looking the part: Dayton was the highest ranked team to visit the Ryan Center since St. Joe’s came to Kingston ranked No. 2 in 2004. In getting to 17-0 in A-10 play, the Flyers looked as good as advertised. They shot 47 percet from the field, 40 percent from 3 and 85 percent at the line. They had 16 assists to seven turnovers. And every time URI tried to get back in the game, they would very quickly push back. Obi Toppin had 20 points, including several highlight-reel dunks.
Slow and steady: When the Flyers get to top speed on the fast break, they’re incredibly dangerous. URI actually kept them from doing that, with Dayton scoring only six fast-break points. It still didn’t matter as the Flyers consistently executed in halfcourt sets.
Hanging but falling: Until the game really slipped away in the second half, URI seemed to be playing better basketball than it had in the loss to St. Louis. Effort was there and the Rams weren’t getting physically overwhelmed. But they struggled to score and found themselves constantly going uphill thanks to Dayton’s prowess. Said head coach David Cox: “There are no real kinks in that armor. They don’t make mistakes. In my 20 years of watching the Atlantic 10 basketball, I don’t know that there’s a better team that I’ve seen . . . I was hoping we wouldn’t get that A game tonight. But it seems like their A-minus game is really good. So every time we made a run, got a little closer, just like that they push that lead right back up. It’s a well-oiled machine at this point.”
Cold shooting: URI wasn’t going to beat Dayton shooting 29 percent from the field. The Rams also didn’t help themselves at the free-throw line, hitting just 17 of 35 for 49 percent. Dayton head coach Anthony Grant felt defense was the key to the win for his team, regardless of how good the Flyers were offensively. Fatts Russell and Tyrese Martin never got going for URI, Russell going 2-13 and Martin 3-12. Rhody’s 17 field goals were its fewest of the season.
Trending down: You can attribute some of Wednesday’s struggles to the opposition, but there’s no question that URI is moving in the wrong direction. Maybe fatigue is a factor. Injuries haven’t helped. Shooting struggles have returned. The Rams don’t look like the same team that won 10 in a row. To make a run in Brooklyn, they’ll need to start feeling good about themselves again, so the UMass game will be key on that front.
Senior night: Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine, walk-ons Eric Dadika and Jordan Green and student managers were honored in pregame Senior Night festivities, applauded by a boisterous sellout crowd of 7,895. But the good times largely ended there for the seniors and the fans, which added a layer of disappointment to the performance for the Rams. Said Cox: “My heart and mind is with those seniors on this particular night, not giving them our best overall performance.”
Against the dark: Dowtin made five of seven 3-point tries for a team-high 16 points. Jermaine Harris was also a bright spot for the Rams with nine points and four rebounds.
Quotable: “The message in there was we’re going to make a decision tonight whether or not we’re going to continue to fight, which we’ve done all year, or fold. I don’t expect them to fold. I expect them to continue to fight, not only for themselves, for this team and for our chances to play postseason basketball, but to honor those two seniors who have given blood, sweat and tears for this program.” - Cox
Next: URI visits UMass on Saturday night.