KINGSTON, R.I. — Nikola Malesevic scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Rhode Island held off a late rally by Georgia State in a 65-60 victory on Saturday.
Xavier Munford finished with 17 points for the Rams (4-7), who won their second straight game.
Rhode Island took a 57-47 lead with 5:20 remaining in the second half on Mike Powell’s 3-pointer. The Panthers responded with a 10-2 run, capped by Rashaad Richardson’s layup to cut the deficit to two points with 2:25 left.
Mike Powell answered with a jumper and Ryan Brooks made a free throw to give the Rams a 62-57 lead with 1:47 remaining. Georgia State trimmed the margin to two points again after Manny Atkins’ three-point play, but the Panthers (5-7) were unable to pull closer.
R.J. Hunter finished with 23 points for Georgia State, which has lost three consecutive contests. Atkins and Devonta White each had 14 points.
From what I saw, GA St. played mostly in a match-up zone defense. URI has had some serious difficulties handling any type of zone defense. One of the most effective ways to attack a zone defense is to have your best slasher drive into the paint which causes the defense to collapse and surround the slasher. The driving player then quickly kicks it out to the best sharp shooter for a quick, wide-open 3. It appeared that URI did not emphasize the slashing part (utilizing Xavier Munford to try and slash. What I saw was a lot of passing around the 3-point arc with some occasional passing into the open big man down low. I wish URI would try and slash more to collapse the defense leaving Malone or Malesevic open at the top of the key for an open 3-pointer.
Looking back at my game preview, I made a note to emphasize how even these two teams are in several key statistical areas. One area I highlighted was rebounding. I typed about how URI is, shockingly, a better rebounding team than Georgia St. URI was +4 in the rebound column. Both teams had 5 offensive rebounds which means URI did a better job limiting the second chance points for GA St.
URI had a good game shooting. They shot 43.3% from the floor (29 of 67) – this includes the 40% from downtown (8 of 20). Diving into these numbers brings up a few points that I think should be highlighted:
– 30% of URI’s total shots were from beyond the arc. This is compared to the 24% for Georgia St.
– URI needs to use the 3 and a complementary piece of their offense (not the focal point). When schools focus on the 3’s, they often lose in tournaments because they are just not consistent enough to win long tournaments.
-URI shot 71% from the free throw line and hit clutch free throws at the end of the game to close it out. Very different from earlier in the season. This is a good sign going forward.
– URI won by 5 but realistically, they should have put this team away early and blow them out. The biggest reason they didn’t: turnovers.
– URI committed 12 turnovers (GA St. only committed 6). This is completely backwards compared to what the numbers showed coming in. GA St. was the turnover-prone team and URI is the more secure team. The biggest culprit is Munford, who had 4 TO’s.
To close on a good note for Munford, the most underrated play of the game came early in the second half. GA St. played an overaggressive defense and would try and jump the passing lane to get turnovers. Munford recognized this and faked a pass to Powell out on the key causing the low post defender to over play the fake and left Malesevic wide open in the paint and Munford passed it to him for an easy lay-up.
Good win for Rhody and they finally have their first winning streak of this season. Looks like the new faces are really starting to get the offensive system and they are really gelling. This team looks like they could make some noise come conference play and put a good scare into quite a few of the top teams.
Come back later in the week for the game preview of St. Mary’s College.