Rhode Island Basketball: 3 takeaways from Rams win over Boston College

Rhode Island basketball remained undefeated last night as they took down Boston College 57-49 in Kingston. Here’s what we learned.

With the caveat that it’s still quite early in the season, Rhode Island Basketball looked like a team that could finish in the top four of the Atlantic 10 when it’s all said and done. Rhody moved to 3-0 for the first time in the David Cox era last night thanks to a solid 57-49 victory over the Boston College Eagles.

The Rams came out hot in the first half, shooting 55.6% from the field as they built a nine-point lead at the break. The offense slipped away in the final 20 minutes, but URI was able to stave off an upset in front of their home crowd. Rhode Island trailed only once in the game at 10-8, just missing a wire-to-wire victory against an ACC opponent. They’ll take that any day.

Next up for Rhody is a mid-season tournament — the Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach, Florida. But before that tips off this weekend, let’s break down the three keys to last night’s win. They’re all things that should serve the Rams well moving forward as they look to keep piling wins.

1. URI’s Defense is a Force

Since the start of the Dan Hurley era, defense has always been the calling card for Rhode Island basketball. David Cox is continuing that trend. Rhody tallied 13 blocked shots, eight steals, and held BC to just 25% shooting (from both the field and from three) on the night. And in the second half when offense was at a premium, the URI defense stepped up. The Eagles made only five baskets over the final 20 minutes, and nothing was easy.

And if you think this game was an outlier, you’d be wrong. Tough D has been a trend over the first three games. Just check out these numbers.

Rhody is back to doing what got them to two-straight NCAA Tournaments. This isn’t a prediction that they’ll make another one, but if they keep locking down like this, their ceiling this season gets raised significantly.

2. A Balanced Attack on Offense

It wasn’t the prettiest of offensive games for Rhode Island, in case you couldn’t tell by the final score. But unlike previous years where the Rams were fully reliant on Fatts Russell to carry the scoring load, they have plenty of options this season. The Rams had seven players tally seven or more points on Wednesday night, including two guys off the bench.

Ishmael El-Amin led the way with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including a huge three from the corner to stop a BC run in the second half. Makhi Mitchell had 10 to go along with eight rebounds, and Makhel Mitchell had eight and seven. As for the bench, Malik Martin and Jalen Carey both contributed with seven and eight points respectively, which was huge on a night when the Rams struggled to find the hoop.

Ishmael Leggett, Rhody’s leading scorer on the season, was held in check by the Eagles, scoring just three points in 24 minutes. But they had other guys step up in what is shaping up to be an “any given guy on any given night” offense. Not relying on one or two players to put up 15+ every night will just make URI that are much harder to guard.

3. The Mitchell Twins are a Problem

This is kind of burying the top story for Rhode Island basketball this year, but let’s dedicate some space to Makhi and Makhel Mitchell. The big men combined for 18 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 blocks against BC, with an insane eight of those blocks coming from Makhel. The Maryland transfers are forces in the paint on both ends of the floor, and it was likely the difference between a win and a loss against the Eagles.

And, as is often the case with twins, they have some solid chemistry. Check out this play to bring the crowd to their feet.

Next up for the Mitchell twins and URI: The Sunshine Slam. Rhody will face Tulsa on Saturday night with a date against either Utah or BC (again) on Sunday.