Ryan Grube, Staff Writer
In recent years, men’s basketball has been notorious for getting hot in a hurry, and for plaguing teams with devastating runs to pull away throughout the game.
On Saturday afternoon, that was not the case. The black and gold struggled shooting the ball — particularly from deep (6-28) — en route to a 65-56 defeat at the hands of Rhode Island.
Coach Mike Rhoades attributed Saturday’s loss to a sluggish start from the opening tip.
“We got downhill, we just didn’t finish enough at the rim. That lack of finish on offense affected everything,” Rhoades said. “We weren’t flying around, and then when we did start flying around and our style of play got going, we turned it over.”
Rhoades’ players consistently got the looks they desired, working the ball inside and out to find the open man. VCU took 10 more shots than the visiting Rams, but the team’s ball movement simply didn’t translate to conversions.
Rhoades said he was pleased with the open opportunities, but the coach emphasized the need for his army to finish layups on the break.
The black and gold shot just 31% from the floor. The poor shooting clip set a new season-low for VCU, which entered Saturday’s contest shooting 43% from the field on the season.
“Despite our threes not falling, we still had chances to get in the game and win the game,” senior guard De’Riante Jenkins said of the team’s shooting woes. “We just kept making mistakes toward the end, right when we had them where we wanted to.”
VCU trailed by as many as 15 points on two separate occasions, but the black and gold trimmed their deficit to one with just under seven minutes remaining in the game on a hook shot from junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva.
VCU did not inch any closer, as the home Rams never led throughout Saturday’s loss. The setback marked URI’s third win over VCU in the past four meetings between the two schools.
VCU fell to URI 71-65 in the two team’s first matchup of the 2018-19 season. After Rhoades and company took the second game 76-42 at the Siegel Center, URI won the rubber match 75-70 in last year’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal.
Rhoades said URI’s combo guards Fatts Russell and Jeff Dowtin create matchup problems with their ability to push the ball.
“It’s something we have to get right, and we have to get better,” Rhoades said. “As disappointed as I am, and as mad as our players are, it’s about what we’re going to do from here. I don’t feel sorry for us — another team wants to win too.”
VCU has a tough turnaround task with a road test against Dayton looming. But, Rhoades said the difficult matchup is something his squad needs to rebound from their home loss.
“It’s the A-10, it’s college basketball. [Let’s] find out what we’re made of,” Rhoades said. “It’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be tough. But sign us up, let’s go.”
VCU will travel to Dayton on Jan. 14 for its date with the Flyers at 8 p.m.