KINGSTON — When a team struggles to shoot, it helps to have big men to rely on to clean up the mess.
The University of Rhode Island’s struggles with its shot are well-documented — the Rams entered Wednesday’s game against Brown sporting a 24.7 percent mark beyond the 3-point arc. But, fortunately enough, they also have Cyril Langevine and Jermaine Harris on their side.
Langevine dragged URI’s field goal percentage into respectability, routinely finishing at the rim to post his fourth consecutive double-double, and helped Rhody to a 71-51 bounceback win at the Ryan Center.
“That was Rhode Island basketball today,” URI coach David Cox said. “Proud of the way the guys responded. We had two great days of preparation and we executed the plan.”
Seven of Langevine’s 19 points came on second-chance opportunities thanks to a staggering 12 offensive boards. Even when the offense failed to find him, he found a way to insert himself into the conversation.
“I’m averaging a double-double, now,” said a smiling Langevine. “I’ve waited so long for that.
“Coach always preaches, be aggressive. Starts with practice. Translates to the game, that’s what happened.”
“Cyril has been doing this for us all year,” Cox added. “That’s who he is now. That was a grown-man effort.”
The action was fully dynamic in the paint. The experienced Langevine imposed his will, but so did newcomer Harris. He posted career highs in points and minutes, scoring 15 and logging 25.
“Cyril had an outstanding night,” Cox said. “Jermaine got it going. We knew it was only a matter of time.”
“It’s slowed down for me,” Harris said of the collegiate game. “I’ve been taking in a lot from the older guys. [Christion Thompson], Jeff [Dowtin] and them.”
It was a full-on coming-out party for the 6-foot-8 forward to start the second half. He poured in six consecutive points, capping the personal run with a one-handed slam.
“It was just a matter of time for things to click for Jermaine,” Cox said. “Needed things to slow down a little bit. He needed us to have patience. We gave him the ball today and he was very effective.”
The rest of his teammates — or the Brown Bears for that matter — may not have brought their shooting strokes to the Ryan Center on Wednesday, but Christion Thompson certainly did. He was the sole Ram to hit a 3-pointer, chipping in nine points and hitting all three of URI’s deep shots.
“Whenever those guys aren’t shooting well, I’m just trying to pick them up,” said the guard. “I wasn’t shooting well either, but we need to keep shooting. Can’t be discouraged by bad misses.”
It was his defensive play that likely had the most impact on the game. Thompson drew three charges and swiped the ball away a career-high five times.
He also had the assignment of guarding Brown’s No. 1 option on offense, Desmond Cambridge. The former Ivy League Freshman of the Year was limited to seven points on 2-for-11 shooting.
“We told CT to stay close [to Cambridge],” Cox said. “As soon as he catches it, he gets right into his shot. [Thompson] was there and contested every shot that kid took. He did an outstanding job on him tonight.”
It was all about the frontcourts in the long-standing rivalry, at least on offense. The first combined 14 points of the game all came exclusively on layups. Neither team hit a 3-pointer until 11 minutes had passed, and Langevine was actually the first player to successfully connect on a jumper.
The efficiency from the big-man pairing was much needed. As guard-oriented as the Rams have tended to be in past years, they may have to rely more on play in the post this season. Fatts Russell and Dowtin combined to shoot 0 for 9 on 3-pointers and have only hit 11 in total this season.
“We can’t have poor shooting on the perimeter and poor play in the post,” Cox said. “[Harris and Langevine] came through for us in the clutch.”
A 9-1 Brown run in the second half drew the visiting squad within six points, but the sure-handed Dowtin was there to make sure the lead would not dwindle any farther. After hitting his first field goal of the game at the 11:47 mark of the second half, he sank four consecutive free throws to stretch the lead out back to double digits.
The Rams ran away with the game from there, thanks to sweltering defense and accurate free throw shooting. The Bears turned the ball over a season-high 19 times, and the Rams were money from the line down the stretch (16 for 22 overall).
The Rams will not return to the Ryan Center for a game until Dec. 30. Until then, they are on the road against Providence, Holy Cross and West Virginia.