KINGSTON – Friday night wasn’t a basketball game as much as it was a formal execution.
From start to finish, the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team displayed the type of prowess you’d expect from a team in the Top 20. Whatever strengths Davidson had never made their way to the Ryan Center floor as URI stomped the Wildcats 72-59. In this game, the Rams were the bully and they took all of Davidson’s lunch money.
“I thought the whole team did a great job of eliminating the 3-point line, which was key No. 1,” URI coach Danny Hurley said. “Key No. 2 was really to try and keep [Kellan] Grady, [Peyton] Aldrich and [Jon] Gudmundsson under 40 points combined. We felt like if we did that they wouldn’t have a great chance at winning.”
The Davidson trio got to that 40 point number, but it didn’t matter.
It’s been 15 games since URI lost. Not every win has been the same, but watching the Rams torch Davidson Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd showed how good this team is when everything is going right.
The defense? Suffocating. The offense – efficient and productive. The starters? Terrific. The bench? Even better. The swag? Plenty of it.
And while every team across the country looks for a missing piece that could make it a championship contender come March, the Rams don’t have to look far. They’re going to play their brand of basketball and if opponents want to look for a weak point, what happens next is on them.
“I don’t know, we’ve won 15 games in a row, man,” said Hurley when asked what his team is missing. “I don’t know, some budget things?
Who led the way Friday? Can ‘everyone’ be the answer? Four players were in double digits and only one of those players was a starter.
After no points in the first half, Jarvis Garrett put on a show with 17 points on 4 of 5 from the outside. Fatts Russell, who’s slowly working his way to legendary status in URI lore as a freshman, scored 10.
“In the first half I felt like all of my catches around the 3-point line, I was catching the ball off-balance,” Garrett said. “At halftime my teammates told me to shoot more, so I just came out with the confidence to shoot more.”
Then there was Cyril Langevine, who made the paint his and took the crowd level from ‘excited’ to ‘pure delirium’ with devastatingly destructive dunks. There were none better than the two-handed monster over Davidson’s Will Magarity that ended in a technical foul on Langevine, when the sophomore had the audacity to show a little excitement with a subtle flex as Magarity was left soul-searching following the play.
“We’re not like a team, we’re a program,” Hurley said. “…You can go on winning streaks and have seasons like this when you have players, different guys stepping up each night.”
“We kind of just tell each other when we get in the game we’re going to do whatever we need to to enhance the lead,” said Russell, who was 2 of 5 from the 3-point line and added three assists off the bench. “Me, Jarvis, Cyril, we’re just constantly talking to each other, trying to see what we need and just do it.”
Defensively URI might be the most fun team in the nation to watch. It doesn’t have a dominant shot-blocking presence inside that draws oohs and aahs from the crowd – although Langevine did with a block in the second half, one of two on the night – but there’s something about watching three guards swarm an offense like locust and take a team out of their game.
Davidson shot under 50 percent from the field (24-for-49) and made only 4 of 17 3-pointers while committing 10 turnovers, numbers Hurley had hoped for.
“We wanted to keep them under five threes. The goal was five or less,” Hurley said. “We probably could have lived with seven or eight. Some of those rolls where we gave up some naked twos, we could live with that because we just didn’t think that they would have a chance to beat us if they didn’t shoot the ball well and if the 3-point line wasn’t a major factor for them.”
The Rams are taking pelts from the rest of the Atlantic 10. Davidson was No. 2 in the league before tonight and URI already has a blowout win over St. Bonaventure, the third-place team. Tuesday Richmond comes to the Ryan Center where a win will mean two straight months of undefeated basketball.
And finding motivation won’t be difficult.
“I’m going to come in breathing fire tomorrow on some of the things I find on film when I get home and watch this. I’m the type of coach that likes to keep his team on edge, find things to motivate, find things to correct. I recruit the type of players that are, in a weird way, more like me than they think they are which is why they respond to me pretty well.”