Percentages weren’t enough…UD’s numbers were nice, but Rhode Island’s 17-1 first half run too much to overcome in a 88-74 A-10 loss.
DAYTON — Rhode Island is the smallest state in the union but, paradoxically, the University of Rhode Island basketball team is the biggest, baddest bully of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The University of Dayton discovered just how mean of a machine the Rams are Saturday afternoon in UD Arena and saw why Rhode Island can also be called ‘The Roadies.’
On this occasion, after they laid a fried egg on the Hagan Arena floor Wednesday in Philadelphia against Saint Joseph’s, the Flyers did not play that poorly against Rhode Island.
But the scoreboard doesn’t lie and the scoreboard read, “Rhode Island 88, Dayton 74.”
Thus the Rams, the only unbeaten team in A-10 league play, stretched their record to 7-and-0 (15-and-3) overall. The Rams have won 10 straight games. They’ve won 15 straight league games. And they’ve won eight consecutive league games on the road in some gyms where the visitors are welcomed like lice in your hair and bugs in your bed.
This wasn’t a case of the Flyers playing like somebody chopped off heir thumbs, as they’ve done a few times during this 9-and-10 season, 3-and-4 in the A-10.
UD came into the game as the A-10s best shooting team (47 per cent) and they did nothing to tarnish that Saturday. They shot an amazing 64 per cent (26 for 41). But they lost by 14.
The Flyers came into the game with the A-10s best free throw shooter. Darrell Davis was hitting 88 per cent and was on a streak of 30 straight without a miss. He made seven of eight Saturday, missing his seventh attempt of the day and the Flyers were 18 of 23. But they lost by 14.
Josh Cunningham is the A-10s top percentage shooter at 67 per cent. He made 13 of 18 shots Saturday and scored a career-high 32 points. But the Flyers lost by 14.
So how did this happen?
Well, Rhode Island came out with a pressure-packed all-court defense, double-teaming the guards at the three-point line, knowing UD’s penchant for casting away from the three-point line.
The pressure defense forced 21 turnovers, eight by Darrell Davis. The Flyers, averaging eight threes a game, shot only 14 and made only four. And Rhode Island scored 24 points off UD’s turnovers. Every time UD turned the ball over and every time they missed a shot and Rhode Island grabbed a rebound, Rhode Island’s entertaining coach, Dan Hurley, yelled, “Run, run, run, run.”
Those turnovers limited UD to only 41 shots while Rhode Island put up 64 and made exactly 32 – that’s 50 per cent for the mathematically challenged.
And the Rams collected 12 offensive rebounds to Dayton’s two and Rhode Island produced 16 second-chance points to only two for the Flyers. That’s a 14-point difference — and the Flyers lost by 14.
Early in the game, Hurley was on the officials and at one point referee Tim Comer said softly to Hurley, “Here’s the deal. How about if you coach and I do the refereeing?”
Early in the first half, the Flyers went on a 13-1 run to take a 29-24 lead, their biggest of the game.
But later in the half, Rhode Island did it better — a 17-1 run that gave the Rams a 50-38 lead.
The Flyers scored the final five of the first half to pull within seven. They scrambled to within four, 55-51, with 16 minutes left, but Rhode Island took command from there and gradually and steadily pulled away.
“We have to come up with more stamina,” said Cunningham. “I felt like we played good but we just have to keep pushing the whole 40 minutes.
“Coming in, we knew they were a great offensive rebounding team,” Cunningham added. “We didn’t execute the game plan. We were supposed to box them out but we didn’t do a good job of it.” Amazingly, eight different Rams had at least one offensive board. Cunningham had a team-best 11 rebounds for the Flyers, but only one off the offensive glass.
“And if we had limited our turnovers I felt we had a great chance to win this one,” Cunningham said.
Of his 32 points, Cunningham said softly, “It doesn’t mean anything to me because we didn’t win. It’s all about winning.”
Flyer Coach Anthony Grant knew exactly what happened — too many turnovers, too many offensive rebounds for Rhode Island.
“Their ability to put pressure on us with their full-court defense impacted the game,” he said. “And we knew we had to do a great job on the backboards. The combination of turnovers that led to easy opportunities for them and their second-shot opportunities were the keys.
“When you look at the stat sheet and see their 64 shots to our 41 tells a story,” he added, a sad story for the Flyers.
Grant was not dismissive of his team’s effort and competitiveness on this particular afternoon.
“Rhode Island is a really good basketball team,” he said. “If we judge our team by the results today, you are doing our guys a disservice. Our guys competed well and Josh Cunningham really competed well.”
Jared Terrell, Rhode Island’s leading scorer at 18 a game, led the way this day with 24. E.C. Matthews, averaging 13.6, chipped in with 17 and led the Rams with seven rebounds.
Cunningham received little help from his friends – 11 points from Darrell Davis and 11 from Trey Landers.
Landers, who didn’t score Wednesday at Saint Joseph’s, dunked to open the game and scored six of UD’s first 13, but picked up two quick fouls and ended up only playing 18 minutes before fouling out late in the game.