A little more than a year ago, the University of Rhode Island handled Virginia Commonwealth’s trademark pressure defense at home well enough to battle one of the Atlantic 10 Conference’s best teams down to the wire. In a battle of the Rams, URI lost that game by six points. But it was a much different story Thursday night. Without a true point guard to lead them, URI turned the ball over 20 times in the most recent meeting — leading to 22 points — and were quickly out of it in a 68-52 loss before the 47th straight sellout at the Siegel Center. A 12-minute scoring drought — fueled by URI mistakes — in the first half allowed the home team to build a 16-point lead that turned into a 20-point advantage at the break, and VCU coasted to its sixth straight victory. “We handled it much better the last time we saw them,” said URI coach Dan Hurley. “Obviously, for us, coming into the game, down to eight scholarship players. Both of our point guards … one is out with injury and one transferred out in December. “They’re tough to play against when you don’t have a true point guard. They do a great job with their pressure. We tried to play two scholarship guys and five walk-ons [in practice] to prepare for the multitude of things they do but you can’t simulate it.” URI averages almost 14 turnovers a game but had 11 at intermission, when they fell behind 41-21. “This was the first time we really played against pressure like that,” said Xavier Munford, URI’s leading scorer who was held to 10 points, nine below his average. “It was tough to us to get going tonight. But we’ll use it to prepare for our next game.” VCU use its havoc defense to trap URI in the backcourt and harass them all the way up the court. “They’ve got a young team,” said VCU coach Shaka Smart. “And they’ve had some injuries so that obviously affects their depth. You’re talking about a team that’s missing their two point guards that started the year. “If those guys are still playing, it could have been a different game in terms of handling the pressure.” With both Munford and second-leading scorer E.C. Matthews struggling against the man-to-man defense of VCU, guard Jarelle Reischel was URI’s leading scorer with 11 points, despite picking up four fouls in the opening half. Munford managed to reach double figures but nine of them came in the second half, when the outcome had been decided. Between them, Matthews and Munford were 5 of 21 from the field and committed seven turnovers. Down 20 points at intermission, URI (11-12, 2-6) made a brief run early in the second period to shave its deficit to 16 points. URI managed to narrow the gap to 49-37 on a 3-pointer by Munford with 8:10 left in the game, but URI got no closer to VCU (19-4, 7-1). The only other bright spot for URI was center Gilvydas Biruta, who had 14 rebounds and nine points. The visiting Rams trailed, 41-21, at the break, largely because they couldn’t put the ball in the basket. After hitting 3 of its first 6 shots, URI went stone cold from the floor. From 16:02 to 4:03, the visitors connected on only one field goal, a layup by T.J. Buchanan at 12:01. That basket pulled URI within 14-11 but it was all downhill from there.
VCU 68, URI 52: Rhody commits 20 turnovers in loss
Providence Journal | Feb 7