THE RAMS TAKE ON LA SALLE WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19TH AT 7PM ON YURVIEW, COX CHANNEL 4 IN RI
Winners of two straight Atlantic 10 contests, David Cox’s Rhode Island Rams (11-4, 2-1) moved into the top 100 of the NET rankings at 95 and face the La Salle Explorers (6-8, 1-3) on Wednesday night at the Ryan Center.
Both programs enter fresh off victories against geographic rivals. Rhode Island assembled arguably its most consistent 40-minute performance in an 81-68 win at UMass. La Salle won its first road game in nine tries and first game in 36 days, vanquishing Big 5 Philly rival Saint Joseph’s at Hawk Hill, 75-64. Ashley Howard’s Explorers team rode improved second-half perimeter defense and hot shooting from lanky, 6-8, 200-pound forward Jack Clark to the win. Clark made 5 of 10 three-point attempts, many during a second frame flurry, en route to a career-high 21 points.
Wednesday’s game will be aired on Yurview (7pm – Cox channel 4), while Steve MacDonald and I will have the radio call on B101.5. Here are a few musings as you prepare to take this one in from a comfy seat – either in the Ryan Center, your car, or couch.
EVER-CHANGING CHANGE AGENT:
La Salle is 11th in the Atlantic 10 in three-point shooting at .331 and does not offer a perimeter specialist in its regular rotation who shoots over 40%. Jhamir Brickus (19 for 48, .396), Josh Nickelberry (32 for 89, .360) and Clark (19 for 60, .317) are the most willing and likely to engage. But each game is a search for the hot hand. Against Joe’s, Clark caught fire in a critical stretch. Between the 16:40 and 9:56 marks of half two, Clark whacked four threes and a nine-point Explorer deficit (35-26) became a four-point lead (47-43).
The impact Clark’s makes had on the moment extended far beyond his points. La Salle’s offensive spacing improved immeasurably, allowing others to find flow. The momentum shifting three-balls also meant the Explorers could set their defense and carry intensity and energy on that side too.
While their perimeter consistency is elusive, there’s a streaky side to the games of Clark and other Explorers that can burn the unsuspecting. SJU mental errors fanned the flames on Sunday. Rhode Island must identify the hand of the day early, communicate, and allow no traction. If they can, La Salle will sputter in its half court execution.
“Get that outta my house!”
-Jalen Carey… probably pic.twitter.com/bT0NpYgqX1
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) January 30, 2021
Against UMass, redshirt sophomore Jalen Carey scored 11 points on 4-6 shooting from the field (3-3 at line) and snared five rebounds in 18 minutes of action. The point total was one off his Rhody career-high of 12 against South Florida early last season. Carey is shooting the ball with remarkable consistency .563 FG, .889 FT, .750 (3 of 4) 3PT in large part because he’s taking the right shots from the right spots. Turnovers remain an issue for him – four versus UMass – but he logged 18 minutes and continues to make progress.
In thinking about Jalen’s game, a conversation I recently had with Saint Joseph’s Assoc. Head Coach John Griffin comes to mind. Describing the Hawks offensive philosophy, Griffin indicated a preference for Billy Lange and staff in wanting their players to make quick decisions. No fluff. It’s translatable to Carey. When Jalen is simple and decisive in his offensive intent, either go or no-go, good things happen. When he searches off the dribble, it spells trouble for his floor game. Keep a qualitative eye on his splits here – and continued maturation. The shot selection has come along. The floor game is next on the list.
There are no easy nights in the Atlantic 10.
Yes… but there are tougher ones.
Coming out of the gates and shifted by pandemic logistics, the Rams have opened Atlantic 10 play with Saint Joe’s (H), UMass (A), La Salle (H), and GW (H) – programs with combined records of 25-35 overall and 3-12 in league play.
Coaches and players must isolate on the game in front of them. That doesn’t apply to the rest of us. I expect, and you should too, this team to be 13-4, 4-1 when they take the floor against Richmond next Tuesday evening. It’s late January and the Rams schedule falls out in a way where opportunity and confidence building dot the near-term. Time to capitalize.
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 NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44