Rhode Island (10-15, 7-10) bowed out to Dayton in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament 84-72 on Thursday afternoon in Richmond, Virginia.
The Flyers, a cut above, were too much for the Rams in blending textbook spacing with searing shooting to advance to the quarterfinals against VCU. For Rhody, all-timer Fatts Russell played his final contest in Keaney Blue – recording eight points, nine rebounds, and eight assists in the losing effort. Here are a few post-mortem thoughts as the curtain is drawn on the Rams season.
It proved to be an elusive state for the Rams this season. Incorporating several new faces promised to be a challenge for David Cox and staff – and all year long the Rams could never find firm footing in who they were offensively or defensively.
Turnovers played a critical role, and beyond the sheer trackable numbers, the Rams simply struggled to make sound decisions on a consistent basis. A settled-for jumper on one end. An ill-timed, defensive lapse on the other.
These incremental unforced errors on both sides over 40 minutes eroded chances at wins or allowed opponents back into games.
There were some bright spots, like the 91-89 2OT senior night comeback win over this same Dayton team. Or the development of Ishmael Leggett and Makhel Mitchell in particular. And Rhody deserves credit for staying on point with pandemic protocols all year, putting themselves in position to play consistently.
But it doesn’t stretch the bounds of reason to have expected this team to finish closer to 15-10 with its talent level, rather than 10-15. Even with injuries and unevenness, several games were there for the taking inside of 10 minutes.
Results are the paramount measure, and in that respect 2020-21 was a disappointing one for a program that had not finished under .500 since 2013-14.
— Rhody MBB (@RhodyMBB) March 4, 2021
Get well Allen Betrand.
Whenever you see anyone crumple to a heap in a non-contact fashion you fear the worst. Allen, playing his most productive game of the season (10pts), went down midway through the second half on a left baseline drive and was in considerable pain.
The Rams weren’t the same after it. David Cox indicated postgame that Betrand did, in fact, suffer a left knee injury. It would be shocking if the news is anything other than a significant injury with a long rehab ahead.
Here’s hoping I’m dead wrong. Best wishes to him as he heals and gets back to work in the coming months.
Get well additionally to Makhi Mitchell, on his way back from surgery…. and best wishes also to Jeremy Sheppard as he battles a seemingly less serious injury and moves forward in his career.
“He represents himself, his family, his university and our conference in a first class manner.” – Coach Grant
Nothing but respect for Fatts Russell and Rhode Island pic.twitter.com/FTfQjmGmab
— Dayton Basketball (@DaytonMBB) March 5, 2021
THANK YOU, FATTS:
The first time I met Fatts Russell he was a high school senior, seated courtside at Mohegan Sun and about to watch the Rams battle Cincinnati in the Hall of Fame tipoff. I don’t recall who introduced us but we spoke for a few minutes, mostly small talk.
When I walked away I knew one thing: the kid’s smile was unforgettable.
From the moment he set foot in Kingston a year later, he brought not only that smile, but also competitiveness and swagger every game. He succeeded early in his role as a ball of pure unbridled energy off the bench for Rhode Island’s 2017-18 Atlantic 10 Champions team.
The following year would thrust Russell into a leadership position as he played for familiar face, but new head coach, David Cox.
There would be challenges and frustration, but through the setbacks Russell grew individually. Last season he was one of the conference’s premier performers – on both side of the ball.
An electrifying presence and one of the toughest players anywhere pound for pound, Russell’s cascading impact earned him 1st team All-A10 selection and All-Defensive Team honors.
Finally, through this pandemic altered season Russell played hurt, from foot ailments to sports hernias. He did his best to galvanize a team with disparate pieces, playing in empty arenas that robbed both he and those who watch him of the joy of seeing him compete his senior season – and seeing that smile up close.
Through it all he ascended to the top of the record books, becoming the all-time steals leader in program history. I haven’t seen anyone quite like him in 35 years of watching this team with laser focus – and I’m not sure I will again in the next 35 years.
Good luck, Fatts, wherever the ball and life take you. And thank you again. #Limitless
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named an NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44