For URI Rams, Signs of Growth May Require Closer Examination

Jeff Dowtin, #11 (Photo Credit: Alan Hubbard)

For Christmas, Santa brought two terrarium kits down the chimney for the kids. Each contains the transparent enclosure itself along with a lid that has a small LED light embedded that shines on the surface below. Other key ingredients of the kits are soil, a spray-bottle for water, rocks and a seed mixture. Setup requires layering soil, rocks, soil/seed mix in the container. From there, a liberal watering each day with the spray bottle is recommended.So we set them up. The directions give a vague time range of when we can expect to see sprouts appear above the soil line.

Later that same day, Rhode IslaInd left another winnable game out there against Hawaii. The Rams failed to execute down the stretch in a one-possession affair and eventually lost 68-60. The defeat dropped them to 6-5 on the year.

What the hell does this have to do with terrariums?

Cyril Langevine (Photo Credit: Alan Hubbard)

Growth can be nebulous. It requires a mixture of ingredients. It takes place in different ways. Waiting to see significant gains can be alarmingly painful. There’s no defined timetable. It often occurs below the surface and its signs aren’t always visible. Until one day they are.

That’s where this Rhode Island team is right now. It’s a bumpy, not always pretty, and unpredictable ride.

After Hawaii succeeded in lengthening the Rams’ 5,017 mile flight back home, Twitter was filled with its customary emotionally-charged snark. We know if we sift through it, however, there are thoughtful questions and opinions; some centered upon shot selection or offered opinions on when more growth from this team will be visible, particularly from the freshmen.

It got me thinking about what separates great teams from good ones and good ones from average ones when the talent is relatively equal. I’d submit the answer is cohesiveness, consistency, and attentiveness to detail that begins in preparation and practice, extends to game day and is reinforced through experience in specific situations.

It’s a focus needed by the entire unit on a possession-by-possession basis. A focus required over 40 minutes. That’s where developing teams – like these Rams – usually fail.

Fatts Russell (Photo Credit: Alan Hubbard)

Since its a trending topic with this team, let’s examine shot selection.

Fact: Rhode Island has been taking better shots of late, on the whole. There have not been as many quick pulls as there were in earlier games. The Rams have attacked the paint with greater purpose and shot better than 40% in four of the last five games and better than 45% in three of those. They didn’t crack 36.3% in the three games prior. There’s been growth both qualitatively with the eye test and quantitatively as these numbers indicate.

But execution or lack of execution in specific situations impacts our perception about whether we’re seeing improved shot selection in a broader sense.

Sunday, the game was there for Rhode Island to seize. Despite uneven play they’d trimmed an eight-point Hawaii lead to two with about a minute to play. David Cox’s team rebounded a Rainbow Warriors miss, ran out in transition but settled for a quick, contested two-point shot; the type of shot an opponent hopes you take. This resulted in an empty possession. Hawaii responded with a score and would never look back on its way to victory.

It was a classic “close-and-late” situation. Rhode Island clawed back and needed one more winning play to level the game and potentially shift momentum. That type of situation carries pressure that can’t be replicated in practice. Succeeding there requires heightened appreciation and focus because the margin for error is razor thin. A rushed possession, poor shot, late rotation, overzealous over-the-back (we saw two of these late against Hawaii too) or ill-advised pass can tip the balance in a foe’s favor, and because of it’s spotlighted nature and more “direct” effect on the game’s outcome, it becomes magnified.

Being overeager and impatient – not selfish – got the best of the Rams in that instance. It proved a painful lesson. In fact, the Diamond Head Classic offered several painful lessons that hopefully pay dividends “next time.”

So take note if a close-and-late situation like Sunday’s plays out differently moving forward — i.e. a helpful timeout is called, a patient possession ensues, the Rams get a quality shot attempt going at the rim, or earn a trip to the line. That’s one way to unpack and measure development. The more Cox’s team appreciates, focuses and owns incremental actions and moments, the more they’ll create the conditions needed for further growth that tips results in their favor.

Then breakthroughs will come. And more wins.

That’s their continued challenge when Middle Tennessee visits the Ryan Center in the last game of the non-conference season.

Now back to the terrariums, or terraria — whatever they’re called.

The next URI Rams game on YurView is vs. Middle Tennessee on December 30th at 5pm ET. YurView is Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.

More URI Rams basketball content here