NCAA Men’s Basketball 2020:  RIU vs WKU

D.J. Johnson

Consistent outside shooting has been a missing piece for the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team the last few seasons.

Help was just a few seats down the bench last year.

D.J. Johnson and Jeremy Sheppard, both of whom sat out last season after transferring in from the junior-college ranks, are both shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. The program hasn’t had a player clear that mark – with a significant number of attempts – since Jared Terrell shot 41 percent in the 2017-18 season.

Johnson – who redshirted last year – had the best game of his young URI career on Sunday against Western Kentucky with 16 points. He made four of five 3-point attempts and was 6-of-7 from the field overall.

“Huge lift,” head coach David Cox said of Johnson’s performance.

It was Johnson’s second game in double figures. He scored 12 in the season opener against Arizona State. The 6-foot-7 forward has made at least one 3-pointer in five of seven games and is shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc.

Off a season in which he was academically ineligible, Sheppard has played a bigger role as a starting guard and is shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. He made an immediate splash in the season opener with 19 points, and his 10.6 points per game scoring average ranks second on the team.

Mitchell sidelined

Sophomore big man Makhi Mitchell will miss the remainder of the season according to his mother, Maria, who shared the news on Twitter. The school has yet to confirm.

Mitchell suffered an injury in the first half of Sunday’s game when he appeared to get tangled up with an opposing player as they ran up the court. He did not return to the game. Cox did not have an update on his status in the postgame video conference.

Rams winning the numbers game

Just playing games is no small feat for college basketball teams in this pandemic season, and URI is doing so better than most. With no COVID-19 issues of their own to date and few issues with opponents, the Rams played their seventh game on Sunday. They were one of only 25 teams nationally to have played at least seven games as of Sunday. Just a handful of teams have played more. Several teams around the country had yet to play a single game until this week, including URI’s league mates St. Bonaventure and Fordham.

NCAA rules adopted this season state that teams must play a minimum of 13 games against Division I competition to be eligible for postseason play.

A-10 announces financial support, change to protocols

The A-10 announced a plan to distribute $100,000 to each of its member schools for expenses incurred by COVID-19 protocols. The additional distribution will be used to offset cost for testing, protected travel procedures, and unbudgeted expenses associated with numerous safety and health protocols implemented to protect the student-athletes, staff and campus community. The A-10’s presidents’ council approved the plan on Tuesday.

In conjunction with this decision, the council received an updated report from the league’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee. Protocols for the 2020-21 men’s and women’s basketball season were revised to reflect the changing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and NCAA return to sport resocialization guidelines. This includes the recent shortening of the quarantine period from 14 to 10 days, and seven days with negative testing. Additionally, the suspension of testing following a positive result, which was originally 90 days, could be considered for up to 150 days. In both instances, the individual must remain asymptomatic.

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