Brown beat URI 85-75 on Thursday night at the Pizzitola Center.
How it happened: URI found itself in some trouble early and never really got out, despite threatening to do so several times. Brown hit five 3s in the first nine minutes, building a 19-13 lead and also offering a sign of things to come. URI worked back in front 32-31 with 3:33 left in the first half but didn’t score again before the break. Brown ended the half with seven straight points for a 38-32 lead. The Rams came out of halftime with an 8-0 run but were outscored 25-6 over the next seven minutes as Brown pushed its lead to 17. The Rams made a push to get within five at 3:46 but Zach Hunsaker and Brandon Anderson hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to get the lead back to 11, and the Rams couldn’t make another charge.
What it means: The non-conference narrative seemed secure. Rhody hadn’t picked up a marquee win, losing in its biggest opportunities against Maryland, West Virginia and LSU, but had also taken care of business in all its other games. But one last hurdle altered that trend. Brown came in at 258 in the NET rankings and 228 in KenPom. It's a rough loss, even though the Bears look like a potential Ivy League contender. The Rams have time to recover with the A-10 providing more opportunities this year, but the margin of error has gotten smaller. Outside of resume impact, the Rams have to hope the game is an outlier in terms of performance. They will have to play much better to navigate conference play, particularly at the defensive end.
Going deep: Brown made 13 of 28 3-point tries, a season-high. It was clearly a big part of the Brown game plan - coach Mike Martin said, “I wish we had shot 40,” - and URI didn’t defend it well, which is out of character for them. The Rams’ defense almost seemed too aggressive. Said coach David Cox: “At the end of the day, they got advantages on us. When they have advantages, that means we’re chasing. If we’re chasing, they’re going to have guys spaced out and knock down shots. I’m not sure how we got behind. I have to look at the film and see why they were dictating as opposed to why we weren’t dictating.” Some of the success was unusual for the Bears, who came in shooting 31 percent from 3-point range. And Zach Hunsaker, who did most of the damage, was a 24-percent shooter from 3 on the year. The Rams didn’t allow as many open looks in the second half but the Bears still made five from deep.
Scuffling: At the other end, URI shot 41 percent from the field and made only 4 of 20 3-pointers. Shooting hasn’t been as much of a story this year, but the Rams needed a few more to fall tonight. Jeff Dowtin and Tyrese Martin combined to shoot six of 23 from the field. The Rams had 12 assists on 29 field goals, a bit lower than their average. They typically get about half their field goals off assists.
Answers: Two stretches really defined the game for Brown. When URI came out of the break with the 8-0 run, it seemed order would be restored, but the Bears responded emphatically to regain the lead and then build into a significant cushion. When URI had it down to five late, the 3-pointers by Hunsaker and Anderson were back-breakers for the Rams.
Not enough: Statistics and runs aside, URI simply didn’t play the way it needed to play. Cox summed it up, saying, “I don’t think that we came in here with the necessary respect for that team that they deserved. It’s something I had harped on the last couple of days. When you don’t do that, you get exactly what you deserve. We got exactly what we deserved here.”
Good and bad: Fatts Russell had a game-high 25 points but struggled from 3-point range, hitting only one of nine. He was 9 of 24 from the field overall.
Back down: Dowtin still can’t seem to find consistency in terms of his scoring. After low outputs in early December, he came through late against Western Kentucky and matched a season-high with 21 points against Middle Tennessee on Sunday. But he came back to earth with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. He was scoreless in the first half. It goes without saying that the Rams need Dowtin at his best to be at their best.
Tip of the hat: Brown’s Tamenang Choh looked like the best player on the floor at times, totaling 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He’s a very difficult matchup and the Rams struggled with him. Brandon Anderson also had a good game for the Bears with 18 points.
Quiet: URI’s bench scored only nine points, mostly thanks to Antwan Walker’s seven. Mekhi Long had two points and Jacob Toppin was scoreless. The eight-man rotation in action tonight will likely be it for the Rams going forward. They had been getting a lot of help from the supporting cast before tonight.
Quotable: “I need to start by giving Mike Martin - who’s a hell of a coach - and that Brown team all the credit. They were prepared, they were tougher than us, they beat us to all the 50-50 balls, they hit open shots, they shared the game and they played like a true team today. And we did just the opposite.” - Cox
Next: Richmond visits the Ryan Center Sunday with an 11-3 record and an A-10 win already under its belt.