SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Home has equaled success for the Rams so far in the early stages of the 2021-22 season. URI improved to 4-0 at the Ryan Center on Saturday afternoon, defeating Georgia State by a 94-59 final, running its record to 5-2 on the year ahead of a challenging week of play.

“Just a good team win today, coming off that road trip where we lost two out of three,” head coach David Cox said after his squad returned from Florida still smarting over a 67-66 loss to Florida Gulf Coast University in Daytona prior to making the trip back north.

On Saturday, in front of a limited post-holiday crowd of 4,132, the Rams had five players reach double figures, including Jeremy Sheppard who led the way with a game-high 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from three-point territory.

Ishmael Leggett, who missed a potential game-winning shot against FGCU earlier in the week, was right behind Sheppard on Saturday, knocking down five threes as part of a 20-point outing, his confidence on full display throughout.

“It was very important,” he said of putting the last game behind him. “That’s life sometimes. Things don’t go your way. You just have to trust yourself and trust your work. My teammates did a great job of instilling me with confidence and it showed tonight.”

Antwan Walker (13 points), Malik Martin (12 points) and Makhi Mitchell (10 points) rounded out the top-scorers for Rhody in a game that wound up being one-sided.

The Panthers (4-2) managed to keep the contest close throughout the first half, trailing just 41-35 at the break before getting outscored, 53-24 once they returned to the court. Kane Williams led the way with 19 points in the losing effort, while Chien-Hao Ma accounted for half of his club’s six threes in the opening 20 minutes, finishing the game with 11 points.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for (head coach) Rob (Lanier) and that program,” Cox said, recognizing that Georgia State was not at full-strength on the day as they were missing a pair of starters due to COVID.

“It was a true battle in the first half,” said Cox, who credited his own team for clamping down on defense in the second.

“We made some second half adjustments defensively and that was the difference,” he said, describing the offense as consistent throughout.

URI opened the second half on a 10-0 run and never looked back, maintaining their double-digit lead until the conclusion of play, allowing several younger players to come off the bench and contribute. Tres Berry saw 5:01 of playing time, putting up five points, while Ileri Ayo-Faleye and Parnell Pierre totaled more than 11 minutes of playing time between the two of them

The coming week is set to be a telling one for the Rams who travel to Harvard on Wednesday to take on the Crimson before facing off against Providence College at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday, the first meeting between the two rivals since 2019. Last year’s game was canceled amid the pandemic.

For now, the focus is on beating the Crimson.

“We’re excited about the challenge. We will be ready on Wednesday,” Cox said.

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