There may not be another team in the Atlantic 10 that’s lost more nail-biters than Rhode Island. Incredibly, 7 of the Rams’ 8 losses this season have come by 6 points or less. Most recently, they failed to get a road win over George Washington after leading for the majority of the game; the Colonials came away with a 62-58 victory. With the exception of a 63-86 loss to Maryland, Rhode Island has had a chance to win every game it’s lost this season. It’s had the opportunity to win some huge games both in the non-conference and conference portions of it’s schedule, but it’s been unable to execute down the stretch. The Rams are just 2-6 in games decided by 5 points or less this season; why is that? Here are a couple of reasons why we’re seeing this happen to Rhode Island.
1. Poor free throw shooting
Rhode Island has been a very good free throw shooting team in conference play; they’ve hit 75.2% of their attempts and rank 4th in the conference. That hasn’t been an issue, but overall free throw shooting has not been good for the Rams. They rank 288th in the nation shooting 65.4% overall. A majority of the Rams’ non-conference losses resulted partly because of poor performance on the line.
The Rams were just 13-24 (54.2%) from the stripe against Valparaiso; that was a game that Rhode Island lost 55-58. Against Nebraska earlier in the season, the Rams went just 4-8 (50.0%); they also went 9-13 (69.2%) against Providence. While these were definitely games that Rhode Island could’ve won if they were a little better at the line, we can’t place all of the blame on free throw shooting. The Rams are showing progression in this category and are beginning to sharpen up during conference play.
2. Cold shooting at the end of games
If you go back and look at how Rhode Island has finished each game this season, you’ll see that the last 5 minutes of regulation have not been friendly. In the Rams’ most recent loss to George Washington, they led 52-50 with just under 5 minutes to go, but they finished just 2-7 in the last 5 minutes and allowed George Washington to go on a 12-6 run. If you start to look at all of Rhode Island’s losses, you’ll see a similar pattern.
I ran some stats in order to see how Rhode Island has performed in the last 5 minutes during these 7 close losses. During this stretch of time, the Rams are just 21-53 (39.6%), just about 5% lower than their season field goal shooting percentage. In addition, Rhode Island has been outscored 82-62 in the final 5 minutes of these 7 losses. What does this mean? Rhode Island is under-performing at the end of close games. Missed field goals, missed free throws, and turnovers have killed the Rams down the stretch. For this team, it’s just a matter of getting the job done; we’ve seen them perform at a high-level for the majority of the minutes they’ve played this season. Whatever it takes, they’re going to need to find some momentum down the stretch moving forward.