URI hosts an upset-minded Nicholls State team in their home game of the Jamaica Classic. David Cox, Jeff Dowtin and Dana Tate met with the media Monday to preview it.
On Nicholls State: Very good team. Big win at Pittsburgh, overtime at Illinois - which they could have won in regulation - and then they played a heck of a game against LSU the other day. They are extremely talented, extremely deep, very well-coached and they probably play as hard as I’ve seen a team play in quite some time.
On the busy schedule, compared to last year: I do like playing and I think the guys like playing, as well. I think last year, we probably needed the weeks in between for practice purposes, to get better. I think we’ve come a long way. The chemistry is there now. I think getting out there and playing is probably the best-case scenario for us. But we have a very formidable opponent here tomorrow and if we don’t come with our ‘A’ game, we could lose here on this home floor. I have that much respect for the team and that program.
On whether the win over Alabama was a boost: I’m sure it was, but we got right back to work. We flipped the page. We watched an edit of the game - the good, the bad, the ugly - and we moved right on to our next opponent. We’re locked in. I hope the guys come ready to play tomorrow, ready with their energy, and I hope the fans come out, because we’re going to need their support again.
On good things from the Alabama win: The offensive execution was at a very, very high level. I thought we shared the ball tremendously. I thought we played with tremendous pace. I was very pleased with our offensive effort. Defensively, I thought we followed the gameplan for the most part. But when we got a little leaky in the second half is when they made their run. We can’t do that against good teams and still pull out the victory. I’m looking for, tomorrow, to execute at a high level offensively and not turn the ball over against their tremendous pressure, so that we can get good shots every possession. That will be a key.
On early big wins by the A-10: Tremendous start, but again, to be expected. I’ve said this a number of times - I think this is the strongest the A-10 has been in over a decade. Maybe not quite the star power of some previous years, but as far as the depth of the talent pool, as far as the coaching, there are six or seven teams that are going to be fighting for an NCAA berth. Obviously, I don’t expect six or seven teams in from the Atlantic 10 conference, but I definitely think three to four teams is something that we can accomplish as a conference.
On Ryan Center crowds: When this place is packed like that and electric like that, we truly feed off that energy. We needed that energy in here the other night, particularly when Alabama went on their run. If Rhody fans are tuned in right now, please come out tomorrow. It’ll be a great game.
On Nicholls State's veteran presence: These are grizzled, veteran players with a chip on their shoulder. They’ve been battle-tested early on this season. They’ve played very well. To us, they’ve shocked the world. To them, though, they’re probably saying, ‘We’re as good as any team in the country. Let’s line up.’ It’ll be two very similar mentalities tomorrow.
On Nicholls State: They played Illinois really tough down the stretch, beat Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh, which is a big win for them, and they just got finished playing LSU and that was a close game. They’ve played a lot of heavy hitters already so I know they’re going to come in here itching to get one.
On the alabama win: Coach has preached on not letting one game dictate the whole season. The game that we won against Alabama, that’s in the past now. We’re moving on to the next game. We’re locked in on this and we’re ready to go.
On repating his success: I’ve just been working every day, working on my shots, working on getting to my spots, getting into a rhythm. Once I see one shot go in, that gives me a lot of confidence to just keep shooting.
On Nicholls State's experience: Veteran leadership, we’ve got the same thing. I know their seniors are itching to go out with a win. It’s the same thing for us over here, so it’s going to be a great battle.
On playing a big role vs. Alabama: It felt great. I put in a lot of work this offseason to be able to make the most of my role as a sixth man. Just to be able to play with my teammates, play for them, be more engaged in the game, have more of an impact - that means a lot to us and to me. I’m excited.
On growing into his role: It took time to adjust. Last year was an adjustment for me, to this level and to coming off the bench. As you get older, as I mature, I’m more comfortable with the role. I’ve got more of a feel for the game.
On his improvements: I worked on my quickness, my dribbling ability and my speed - being able to put the ball on the ground more, get to spots, not just being in spots. I can attack. I can be more aggressive.
On Nicholls State: They’re a sleeper. They’ve played some good teams, played great games against them. A lot of people probably think we’re going to come in here and blow them out. But they’re a valuable opponent and we’ve got to look to them as a big dog.