The University of Rhode Island, led by a stifling defensive effort, rolled to their 3rd win in as many tries on Wednesday, handing Boston College their first loss of the season. The Rams showed poise in what must have been an emotional win for head coach David Cox, following the sudden and tragic passing of former Ram and Atlantic 10 Champion Ryan Preston earlier this week.
A statement from the Atlantic 10 on the tragic passing of @RhodyMBB Ryan Preston. pic.twitter.com/mregOEcOmR
— Atlantic 10 MBB (@A10MBB) November 17, 2021
David Cox — 'I told the guys before the game that I appreciated them allowing me to be vulnerable with them and honest with them (about Ryan Preston).'
'They allowed me to kind of get that out of my system. And then they came in today with a tremendous focus.' #URI
— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) November 18, 2021
The Rams win tonight made for their first win against the Eagles since 2012, falling just short at the start of last season in a close 64-69 loss at Mohegan Sun.
Block Party in Kingston!
Rhody’s interior defense kept the Eagles offense grounded, outside of a couple of BC runs during the game. Makhel Mitchell lead the way with a career high 8 blocks on the night, suppressing a number of BC’s shots in the paint. It was indeed a block party in Kingston, RI, as the Rams tallied a team total of 13 rejections, 2 more at the hands of Makhi Mitchell, and another 3 by Antwan Walker. Poor shot-selection seemed to be a factor in that high blocked shot total. But David Cox’s Rams set the tone with their defensive effort throughout, holding Boston College to a 25% field goal percentage, and never trailing by more than 2. Graduate transfer Ish El-Amin‘s leadership and defensive prowess seemed contagious once again in the Rhody backcourt, as they held the Eagles to 3 from 12 on three-point attempts.
Runnin’ Rams and Their Turnover Woes
Offensively, Rhody once again struggled with turnovers, with 14 on the night, but an improvement upon their 19 turnovers against Bryant University. Still, despite those 14 turnovers, the Rams had 16 assists on the night, and shot well enough from the floor to make up for those mistakes. Makhi Mitchell had 10 pts and went 4-4 from the field, including a rare 3-pointer for the big. El-Amin continued an impressive start to his Rhody career, logging 12 points, and yet another dagger 3-pointer with less than 4 minutes left to keep the Eagles’ final push at bay.
Though it was a pretty balanced scoring effort for the Rams, defense was the definitive difference in this one. Although they’ll take the 8-point win, Rhode Island was outscored in the messy second half, 23 to 22, and has a bit to build upon following tonight. The Rams lost the rebounding battle, 29 to 42, while allowing a whopping 19 (!!!) offensive rebounds. In comparison to BC’s crashing of the offensive boards, URI only had 5 offensive rebounds on the night. A differential like that could be devastating in a game where the opponent takes advantage of those extra possessions. Additionally, both teams struggled in the second-half, as they combined for just 9 made shots from the floor, in what felt like a battle of scoring droughts from the field.
Eagles Wings Clipped
Despite trailing for almost the entire game, TJ Bickerstaff put together a herculean effort for the Eagles to keep this one within shouting distance. Bickerstaff, (nephew of current Cleveland Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff) put up a career-high 22 points, alongside 15 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals. Despite the career night for the star Eagles transfer, BC couldn’t match the Rams’ depth. The Eagles’ already slim rotation was thinned out further following an injury to graduate transfer guard Brevin Galloway. As a result, the Eagles had all 5 starters log over 30 minutes in the contest, seemingly contributing to some lazy fouls on the defensive end that cost them easy points at the charity stripe. With just 2 points in 16 total minutes from his bench, it seemed evident that head coach Earl Grant is still working on finding his rotation in his first year at Boston College.
DeMarr Langford Jr. came into this one averaging 17.3 points on the season, but the Rams defense proved to be too much. The skilled junior went 1-8, totaling just 2 points on the night. Staying within the Langford family, Rhody fans may have recognized a familiar face, with former Providence College Friar Makai Ashton-Langford back in Kingston. His last time in Kingston proved to be more fruitful though, as the Worcester, MA native went 0-6 from the floor, logging 5 points, all from free throw attempts.
Boston College falls to 3-1 on the season, but will join Rhode Island at the Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach, FL. The Eagles will face Utah (3-0) on Saturday, November 20th.
Rhode Island‘s hot-start continues, as they log a solid-win against an ACC opponent, albeit one that projects to be at the bottom of their league this year. They face Tulsa (2-1) on Saturday, November 20th, and depending on results, could face either Utah or Boston College again on Sunday.
*Header Photo courtesy of GoRhody.com – (Drew Adames)