GAME NOTES: The Rhode Island Rams and UNC Asheville Bulldogs will square off in consolation action of the NIT Season Tip-Off from the Ryan Center on Monday evening.
This is the first time these two teams have met on the hardwood. Rhode Island will close out tournament play on Tuesday against McNeese State, while UNC Asheville will finish against East Carolina.
The Rams are a solid 4-2 thus far and enter this contest off a 79-68 win over UMass Lowell this past weekend. Rhode Island participated in the NIT regional in Tucson last week, beating Metro State (66-63) but losing to nationally- ranked Arizona (87-59).
The Bulldogs are just 1-4 on the season, but have played some stiff competition to date, with losses to both Kentucky and Duke on the road. The loss to the Blue Devils was part of this event, as was an 80-78 setback to Norfolk State one day later in Durham.
The Bulldogs battled back from a five-point halftime deficit, but couldn't quite get over the hump, dropping a two-point decision to Norfolk State last time out. UNC Asheville had one of its best offensive performances in the loss, as five Bulldogs notched double figures, led by Sam Hughes' 16 points. Jaron Lane was a right behind with 15 points, while D.J. Cunningham (13 pts), David Robertson (13 pts) and Andrew Rowsey (12 pts) all made contributions as well.
Rowsey has made an immediate impact for UNCA, as the freshman leads the team in scoring at 14.6 ppg. Cunningham averages 11.2 ppg and is tops on the team in rebounding (9.2 rpg), but the loss of Will Weeks (13.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) to injury has been a real problem for a team that is averaging just 64.8 ppg, while allowing an alarming 78.4.
The Rams have a winning record, but haven't exactly run away from opponents offensively, averaging a modest 71.8 ppg on just .425 shooting. The team has had a real problem the further from the basket, knocking down just 25.8 percent from 3-point range. Senior guard Xavier Munford is one of two Rams currently averaging double figures with 13.5 ppg. Freshman guard E.C. Matthews has started a single game, but adds 12.5 ppg off the bench. Jarelle Reischel is just under the mark with 9.7 ppg.
Things started slow for URI against UMass Lowell, but the Rams made up for it with a 20-2 run in the first half to distance themselves from the River Hawks. Munford led the way with 16 points. Matthews and T.J. Buchanan followed off the bench with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
The Bulldogs haven't backed down from anyone this season, but it hasn't resulted in wins. The Rams are still a tough team in their own building and should be able to earn win No. 5 here.
Game Date and Time