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PC - URI: Rebuilding Rams Hoping for Different Outcome in ‘13

Thursday, December 05, 2013


There’s not a lot that PC and URI can agree on, when it comes to basketball. Not even the number of times they’ve faced each other.

Officially, Providence’s records say the two have met on the basketball floor 123 times, with PC winning 69 of those games. Rhode Island’s records say it’s 125 games for the rivals – with the difference being two games played in 1920 and 1921 that PC considers “exhibitions.”

Of course, URI won both of those.

This year, URI is off to a 6-3 start to the 2013 season, Providence is 7-2…and the rebuilding Rams are looking to take a step forward as a program this Thursday night when the in-state rival Friars visit the Ryan Center.

“They’ve got a really good team,” said URI 6th man T.J. Buchanan. “I know they’ve got a lot of injuries and suspensions going on and a lot of that stuff, but they’ve got a really good team so it’s going to be a hard fought game.”

Buchanan has been a bright spot for Rhody this season, providing energy and production off the bench on both ends of the floor. With seven new players in the rotation from last season, URI Head Coach Dan Hurley is expecting a different result than last year’s 72-57 loss at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

“Last year we were competitive for about 25, 28 minutes, you know things kind of fell apart in the last 12 minutes,” said Hurley. “We obviously want to be a lot more competitive and we obviously expect to be much more competitive.”

“This is one of those games that really coaches itself," PC coach Ed Cooley said. "The players know what they are up against. I have to manage this game, manage our emotions. We are in a similar situation to where we were last year with all the injuries. They are a better team than they were last year, but we are improving and learning to play hurt.”

PC big men LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts were dominant inside in last year’s meeting, combining for 44 points and 24 rebounds in the Friars’ victory. Hurley is hoping some new additions down low will help the Rams contain Henton and Batts Thursday.

“Last year they physically manhandled us around the basket and the post area,” said Hurley. “I think we’re a little more physically equipped, although our forward rotation is really down to 3 players, one of which is an 18 year old freshman, so we physically are going to have our challenges there, but I like the way our guys have competed through 9 games.”

The Friars do have additions to that post area, with 7-0 junior transfer Carson Desrosiers and 6-9 sophomore transfer Tyler Harris added to the mix. Both have made significant contributions to the Friars’ play thus far – Harris primarily as a scoring addition, and Desrosiers as a shot-blocking force in the middle.

“We know what it’s like to go up against those guys,” Desrosiers said. “They’re good. They’ve improved from when the team faced them last year. It’s going to be a challenge for us in their place.”

Gilvydas Biruta, Ifeanyi Onyekaba, and Hassan Martin are the three URI big men who will be tasked with keeping Henton, Batts, Harris and Desrosiers in check. Hurley described sophomore big man Mike Aaman as “questionable at best” and the Rams are game-planning with the assumption that Aaman likely won’t be able to go as he continues to recover from his emergency appendectomy from November 19th.

Another Friar poised to be problematic for URI is senior guard Bryce Cotton, a 1st team all-Big East player last season, and a pre-season favorite again this year. Cotton led the Big East in scoring last season and is up to his usual tricks again this year, averaging 19 points and 5.2 assists per contest.

“He’s a good player,” said Rams leading scorer (14.9 points per game) Xavier Munford. “Last year he was pretty much hurt during that game, but I expect him to be at 100% so we’re just going to try and battle, try and get the win.”

Never one to back down from a challenge, Munford is looking forward to going head to head with a guard of Cotton’s caliber.  “It definitely puts a chip on my shoulder, the senior said. “I try to be the best player on the court.”

Hurley believes it’s just about impossible to shut down Cotton, and he’s preparing his Rams to do everything in their power defensively just to try and slow him down.

“I think you just try to mix some different guys in on him, give him some different looks, you know, maybe some stronger guys and some smaller, quicker guys, just try to see what works,” he said. “A player of his caliber, a holdover from the prior staff, all the different experiences he’s had over the course of his career, he’s seen every different type of coverage, so it’s going to be just about trying to make it hard and maybe he’s at less than his best.”

Buchanan has often been asked to guard the opponent’s best perimeter scorer for the Rams and he says that’s a role he relishes. The junior can’t wait for a chance to match up man-to-man on Cotton.
“I want a chance to get after him, especially one of the leading scorers, I want to be able to try and slow him down and do whatever I got to do to give my team a chance to win,” said Buchanan.

PC did not have the services of point guard Kris Dunn Sunday night against Kentucky, and he probably won't play Thursday night against the Rams as well.  Dunn re-injured his right shoulder in the Paradise Jam game against Maryland, and Cooley reports he's still very sore.

“But we can’t wait to get back out on the floor,” Cooley said, following the disappointment of the 79-65 loss to 3rd ranked Kentucky Sunday night in Brooklyn, NY. "I think we have depth, we just don’t have it in certain positions. I think we have great depth up front and you have to play to your strengths. You have to be strategic in managing your backcourt. We may not be able to extend the floor the way we have shown.

"We don’t feel sorry for ourselves," Cooley added. "We’ll have our hands full at URI. It’s time to suck it up and get ready to go.”

Tipoff Thursday night is 8:00 pm. URI is expecting a sold out Ryan Center for the 124th – or 126th – renewal of the rivalry…depending on who you follow.

Follow on Twitter: @JRBroadcaster  @RealJackAndrade


Related Slideshow: PC vs. URI by the Numbers: A Statistical Comparison

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Points Per Game

Big East Preseason Player of the Year Bryce Cotton leads the charge for PC with 19 points per game, and Kadeem Batts, Tyler Harris, and LaDontae Henton each average nearly 13 points per outing for the Friars.  Only 2 players average double figures for Rhody- Xavier Munford at 14.9 points per game, and E.C. Matthews at 10.4 ppg.  

The Rams have a deeper rotation and get small scoring contributions from just about everyone.  They've been very good at home thus far and as shown on the left they are banking on their home court advantage playing a huge role in Thursday's game.

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Shooting Percentages

As evidenced by their advantages from 3-point range and the Free Throw line, PC has a better pure shooting team than URI.  The Rams shoot a better overall percentage from the field however, as they rely on slashing to the basket and getting favorable matchups in the low post to get high percentage looks at the basket.

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LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts combine to form one of the Big East's best frontcourts for the Friars, averaging a combined 15.1 rebounds per game to this point.  URI is thin inside and have dealt with injury and/or foul issues in almost every game this season.  Starting big men Ifeanyi Onyekaba and Gilvydas Biruta combine for 10 rebounds per game on aberage, but the Rams get rebounding from everyone in the rotation.

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Assists & Turnovers

Turnovers have hindered the Rams all season long, but URI Head Coach Dan Hurley hopes the insertion of Biggie Minnis (2.6 assists per game) as the starting point guard will help turn things around.  The Friars are missing projected starting point man Kris Dunn (5.0 assists per game, injured shoulder) but have gotten great distribution from leading scorer Bryce Cotton (5.2 assists per game) as they adjust to playing without Dunn.

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Defense: Steals & Blocks

PC has been a better defensive team scoring wise and in terms of steals and blocks thus far.  Carson Desrosiers averages 2.6 blocks per game for the Friars and is a force off the bench defensively.  The Friars will be missing top steals man Kris Dunn (1.8 per game) on Thursday due to injury.

Coach Hurley has been frustrated with Rhody's D at times this year, but Jarelle Reischel has been a standout.  The 6'6" Reischel can guard 4 positions on defense and leads the Rams with 1.2 steals per game.  URI is sorely missing a shot-blocking presence down low, a void left by Jordan Hare's indefinite leave of absence prior to the season. 


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