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Atlantic 10 Thursday Preview: Rhode Island hosts the Massachusetts Minutemen

Game of the Night

Massachusetts Minutemen vs. Rhode Island Rams

When Rhode Island found out that it would be without Hassan Martin for the remainder of the season, there was a lot of doubt cast on the Rams’ ability to finish strong. They had lost 3 of their last 4 games, and a road matchup with the Dayton Flyers was all but sure to be a loss as well. But this is the Atlantic 10 Conference; this is a place where the unordinary becomes ordinary. Rhode Island went on the road and stunned the Flyers without Hassan Martin or Christion Thompson in the lineup. Despite only playing 7 different players, Rhode Island got 5 guys to score in double digits. Sending Dayton back into the hole it was trying to climb out of, Rhode Island proved that it still has a little bit of gas left in the tank, even without their stud junior Martin.

Now with two winnable games remaining at the end of the season, it seems Rhode Island has a legitimate chance to gain some momentum before heading off to Brooklyn. Thursday night’s matchup will be the second meeting between Rhody and UMass this season. The Minutemen outlasted Rhode Island at home earlier this season, beating the Rams 61-56 in overtime. Trey Davis led the way with 20 points while Donte Clark had 17. Though Rhode Island did get outplayed, it was without key players Jarvis Garrett and Kuran Iverson. Given the fact that the rematch is in Rhode Island, and both Garrett and Iverson will be available this time around, there’s a good chance this one goes the way of the Rams. That being said, the loss of Martin could really start to take its toll on this depleted Rams squad.

Last time these two teams met, Hassan Martin was a huge asset on the defensive end of the floor; he had a game-high 5 blocks, just one short of UMass’ team total. Without his shot-blocking presence on the interior, the Minutemen may find more success around the rim. Massachusetts’ big men Antwan Space, Tyler Bergantino, and Rashaan Holloway combined to go just 2-10 from the field in that game. Give them some more space without Martin’s shot-blocking presence, and the Minutemen could have a field day inside the paint. Holloway, who’s not known as a major contributor by any means, went for 10 points (his most in a conference game this season) against St. Bonaventure. If he carries that momentum into Kingston on Thursday night, he could make the Rams pay.

As important as the big men are, this one is really going to come down to guard play. Trey Davis and Donte Clark have provided a majority of the offense all season long for the Minutemen. UMass is going to have to find a way to stop Jared Terrell. He went for a game-high 23 points last time these two squads met. He also hasn’t scored in single digits since January 16th. In a battle of backcourts, it’s going to come down to who gets more productivity. This should be a fun one to watch.

Grant’s Take: Rhode Island

As depleted as Rhode Island’s roster seems right now, it’s tough to pick against the Rams at home. Coming off a shocking win over Dayton, Rhody should have enough momentum to get the win over the Minutemen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pretty close game in Kingston.

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