Fatts Russell

Junior guard Fatts Russell leads Rhode Island (6-3) in scoring at 21.4 points per game. | Michael Derr, Special to The Sun

KINGSTON — The University of Rhode Island men's basketball team's emphatic win over Providence led right into a 15-day break, but you won’t find any Rams lamenting lost momentum.

Nine games into one of the most difficult nonconference schedules in the nation, Jeff Dowtin, Fatts Russell and the rest of Rhody’s roster were more than happy to have some time off to reset.

“It’s definitely been good to have some time off,” Dowtin said. “Kinda be to yourself a little bit, but still get in the gym. We’ve been working out. Had a good scrimmage against each other a few days ago. Try and get our rhythm, our groove back. The break has been good to us.”

“It’s helped me a lot,” Russell said of the exam break. “Just to rest my body. I’ve been seeing our trainer Daniel [Anthony], been with him a lot. Fixing the nagging injuries and just getting healthy.

“I was really beat up. My wrist, that happened in the Providence game. My knee, that happened in the Nicholls State game. I had twisted my ankle in practice [as well]. I’m a warrior. I’ll fight through.”

The Rams (6-3) have been driven by the feisty Russell, a junior guard who says he’s now at 100 percent in terms of physical health. Even with all the above mentioned maladies bothering him, Russell still managed to lead the Rams in every single offensive category except for offensive rebounds through their first nine games.

Dowtin, for his part, has had a less-than-stellar start to his final collegiate season. If the season were to end today, the Upper Marlboro, Md., product would register career-worst marks in 2-point percentage, 3-point percentage and assist rate.

But the season doesn’t end today, and Dowtin is fortunate for the chance to improve his individual play.

“My main goal is to get to the free-throw line a lot more,” the senior guard said. “Try to be aggressive and get to the paint a lot. When I get to the paint, I see the floor a lot better and make great decisions.”

The revolving door that is the URI roster over the past few seasons continued to turn this week. Even as Georgetown transfer Antwan Walker gets set to see his first action as a Ram on Saturday, a report from Fox Sports’ Evan Daniel indicates that freshman Greg Hammond has entered the NCAA transfer portal.

If Hammond does indeed transfer, he will become the eighth player to depart early in head coach David Cox’s short tenure as head coach. The freshman hasn’t appeared in a game since the team’s loss to LSU, and had only registered a total of 13 minutes this season.

In addition to players who left for opportunities elsewhere, the Rams have had quite the "tracksuit army" sitting on their bench. Walker was forced to sit out the first semester this season, juco transfer Jeremy Sheppard was declared ineligible at the beginning of this season, D.J. Johnson is being targeted for a redshirt, and sophomore Dana Tate is currently serving an indefinite suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.

“Dana is still out,” Cox said when asked about his absence at practice on Tuesday. “Working on himself. We hope to have him back shortly.”

“Probably not,” he said when asked if Johnson or Sheppard would play this season. “There’s a possibility, but probably not at this point.”

In brighter news for URI, Walker is on track to finally make his debut on Saturday against Western Kentucky. The 6-foot-8 transfer hasn’t played in a collegiate game since March 7, 2018, and as a result, Cox intends to ease the big man in slowly.

“He’ll be in a limited role on Saturday,” Cox said. “He’s got to get his feet wet. We’ve played nine games now. We have a pretty solid rotation. The young guys are starting to come along. We’ll ease [Walker] into the fold.”

The Hilltoppers (7-3) are dealing with their own misfortune. Star player and projected NBA draft pick Charles Bassey fractured the tibial plateau in his left leg against Arkansas on Dec. 7, ending his season.

“Bassey went out and that’s a very unfortunate loss for that young man and that program,” Cox said. “Prayers to him and his family. When he went down, they still rallied to come out with the victory against Arkansas, who was 8-0 at the time. Very talented roster.”

“They’re talented,” Russell said. “They have a lot of good guards. I heard [Bassey] just got a crazy injury. My prayers out to him and his family.”

The 6-11 Bassey had been the Hilltoppers' leading scorer and rebounder through their first 10 games. His absence might make things easier for Cyril Langevine and Jermaine Harris in the frontcourt, but it will make the scouting a little more difficult. The Rams will be the first team to face a Bassey-less WKU this season.

“We’re going to have to do a little bit of guessing,” Cox said. “Their offense is so Bassey-dominated, they spend a lot of time trying to get him the ball in the post in different ways. They’ll go away from that. They have a couple serviceable big men, but not with the talent of Bassey.”

Guards Taveion Hollingsworth (13.5 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Camron Justice (13.3 ppg, 25 of 61 on 3-point attempts) will likely slide further up the scouting report as a result of the hole left by Bassey.

“Their perimeter players are really talented,” Cox said. “I’m sure they’re going to try and get those guys going. We’re going to have to be locked in on the perimeter.”

URI’s lengthy break comes to an end Saturday at the Ryan Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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