GAME NOTES: The Rhode Island Rams look to make it three in a row as they visit McKeon Pavilion for a non-conference tilt with the Saint Mary's Gaels.
Coach Dan Hurley's first season at the helm of the program got off to a rocky start as his team had a difficult schedule to open up with opponents such as Virginia Tech, Ohio State, and Seton Hall. Since starting the season out with five straight losses, the Rams have gone 4-2 and earned a pair of impressive decisions over SMU (72-50) and Georgia State (65-60) in their last two outings. Rhode Island has converted over 44 percent of its field goal attempts in each of its last two games.
Although Saint Mary's suffered an 82-75 loss at Northern Iowa its last time out, it will still be protecting its 14-game home winning streak against non- conference foes in this one. Randy Bennett's Gaels are 8-3 overall this season and appeared to picking up steam with four consecutive wins before falling to the Panthers. The Gaels are one of the top offensive teams in the nation with an average of 80.7 points per game on 50.7 percent shooting from the floor. They are decent on the defensive end as well with an allowed average of only 66.7 ppg on 41.3 percent field goal accuracy.
This will be just the second matchup between these schools on the hardwood in history. URI earned a victory in the first matchup in 1996.
The Rams used accurate shooting from long distance to down Georgia State as they drilled 8-of-20 from beyond the arc while limiting GSU to 4-of-17 makes from 3-point range. URI also held a 36-29 advantage in the rebounding battle to keep its opponent's total of possessions to a minimum. Senior forward Nikola Malesevic just missed a double-double with 22 points and nine boards while junior guard Xavier Munford chipped in 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field. Munford, who willed the team to a victory over Auburn earlier this season, is leading the way with 17.2 ppg. Malesevic is the second leading scorer (13.5 ppg) and top rebounder (5.1 rpg), while Andre Malone is adding 10 ppg.
Although Saint Mary's shot an impressive 50 percent from the field on the afternoon versus Northern Iowa, it did not help itself at the foul line (8- of-17). UNI, on the other hand, made good on 25-of-37 attempts from the charity stripe and also hit 50 percent of its field goal attempts. Jorden Page paced the Gaels with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor including a 6-of-9 clip from beyond the arc. Senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who was the West Coast Conference Player of the Year a season ago, finished with just nine points and six assists after going 3-of-11 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3-point range. Dellavedova enters Thursday's action with averages of 18.5 points and 6.1 assists per game. Brad Waldow (11 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and the now recovered Stephen Holt (10.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) are both contributing double-digit scoring averages as well.
The Rams are a much improved team in recent weeks, but they will be in over their heads against SMC, which rarely loses back-to-back games. The Gaels should be able to coast to the victory as they return to the friendly environment of McKeon Pavilion.
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