Off a surprising loss to St. Bonaventure last weekend, preseason Atlantic-10 favorite Richmond didn’t let the University of Rhode Island men's basketball team spring the same kind of upset Wednesday night.
The Rams shot the ball as well as they have all season but struggled with turnovers and watched the Spiders answer just about every run. Despite being within striking distance for most of the game, URI led for only 43 seconds and lost, 80-73.
“Those guys shot the cover off the ball. That wasn’t unexpected. We needed our defense to be at an elite level and it wasn’t,” Rams coach David Cox said. “But more than anything, the 19 turnovers. You turn the ball over 19 times on the road against a good team, you deserve to lose.”
In dropping to 2-2 in A-10 play, the Rams (5-6 overall) showed the potential that makes them a possible contender, as well as the limitations that have kept them from cementing a spot so far. They shot a season-best 53% from the field, but gave away 19 turnovers and hit a late dry spell. They also watched Richmond (8-3, 2-1 Atlantic 10) turn a host of open looks — and a few well-defended daggers — into 44% shooting from 3-point range. All-conference pick Jacob Gilyard was 6 of 8 from 3 en route to a game-high 22 points.
The Rams trailed by seven on multiple occasions in the first half, only to battle back each time. Three-pointers by Allen Betrand and Jeremy Sheppard powered the first surge, a 3 by Malik Martin sparked another, and five straight points to end the half by Fatts Russell got the Rams within one at the break, 68-67.
The first 15 minutes of the second half represented some of the Rams' best offense of the season, at least in terms of shooting. They made 13 of their first 16 shots, allowing them to lead early. They later moved into a 44-44 tie after Richmond had threatened to pull away.
“Playing inside out is something we just need to do,” Cox said. “We’ve got bigs who can score inside, and that’ll loosen things up on the perimeter. We wanted to touch paint tonight, either with the dribble or passing the ball inside, and I thought that was pretty effective.”
But giveaways reared their head again. Four turnovers in the next three minutes paved the way for Richmond to regain control with an 11-2 run.
Comeback efforts saw URI get as close as two. Antwan Walker’s bucket inside with 4:53 left made it a three-point game, but the Rams would make just two more field goals. Gilyard’s sixth 3 of the night with 1:47 left sealed the win for Richmond, which shot 55% from the field in the second half after making only 36% in the first 20 minutes.
“I thought we were prepared for them defensively, but we didn’t do a good enough job disrupting their rhythm,” Cox said. “Once this team gets in a rhythm, they’re extremely hard to stop.”
Russell led URI with 18 points, adding six rebounds and four assists. Walker had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Sheppard delivered 11 points. Grant Golden had 17 to bolster Gilyard’s big night for Richmond.
The Rams are averaging 15 turnovers per game, 18 per game in conference play. They had a season-high 24 against St. Bonaventure, though they did win that game.
“It’s extremely frustrating, especially today,” Cox said. “I thought a lot of them were kind of random turnovers — dribbling into a crowd, bouncing the ball off your foot, throwing the ball directly out of bounds. They weren’t necessarily caused by tremendous defense on Richmond’s part . . . It’s been frustrating, and obviously, if we continue on these lines, it’s going to be a tough year.”
Cox, a native of the Washington, D.C., area, said he was disturbed by the day’s events at the Capitol, though the early-evening tip meant there was no time to talk with the team about the situation. Richmond is about 100 miles south of D.C., so there was no consideration to a postponement. George Washington, located in D.C., canceled its home game with UMass.
“Obviously, I was locked in on that, being from the D.C. area and being, as all of us are as Americans, troubled by what’s going on,” Cox said.
URI will remain in Richmond ahead of Saturday’s game at VCU and will need another strong effort to nab a signature road win.
“That’s a really good team,” Cox said of Richmond. “We battled on the road. We’ve just got to clean up some things, particularly the turnovers.”