The Rhode Island Rams took on the Delaware Blue Hens on Saturday afternoon in the second game of the Holiday Hoopfest at UBS Arena. URI was looking to snap a three-game losing skid and get back into the win column for the first time since Nov. 26th when they came back to beat Yale 76-72 at the Ryan Center.
The Rams went with their smaller lineup consisting of Zek Montgomery, Luis Kortright, Jaden House, Always Wright, and Tyson Brown. A reason for the guard-heavy rotation was that Rhody would be without forwards David Fuchs, Josaphat Bilau, and David Green. This is Fuchs's second straight game sidelined with a concussion. Bilau did not travel, likely due to injury, and Green has yet to officially be granted eligibility to play by the NCAA after transferring three times in as many years.
The A-10 team scored first with a bucket from House, but Delaware guard Niels Lane was too good to be beaten, opening the first five minutes with five points. While the Rams were able to collect themselves and make multiple stops to make it a defensive game on both sides of the ball, they couldn't turn that defense into offense, as they committed three turnovers in the early minutes. Eventually, the Rams found their rhythm on offense thanks to Quinnipiac transfer guard Luis Kortright, who had seven points in the first half on three-of-five shooting.
The Rams did end up unloading depth off their bench, substituting Brandon Weston, Cam Estevez, and Rory Stewart into the game. Estevez made an immediate impact, posting six points in his first seven minutes; however, Jyáre Davis and Cavan Reilly contributed to a 15-2 run for Delaware. The Rams struggled toward the end of the first half with turnovers and not executing their shots. Their poor ball control led to seven turnovers in the final six and a half minutes of the half, and the Blue Hens would have the lead by nine at halftime.
The Blue Hens opened up the second half with momentum thanks to Davis, who started the second half off with 11 points after knocking down three three-pointers; however, Estevez kept the Rams in this one with a three-pointer of his own and followed that score with a nice drive to the basket to cut Delaware's lead back down to single digits. Estevez finished with 17 points on 50 percent shooting; however, the Blue Hens went right back to work, going on another run, which made it difficult for Rhode Island to regain their lead from the opening minutes.
"Cam is doing a really good job at handling the ball for us. He has embraced working with handling the ball more, and he is a better decision-maker as a freshman than most guys. I think what he has done right now in our last two games will continue because I think he is one of our better players right now,"- Coach Archie Miller
Ultimately, the Rams could not contain the outside shooting from Davis, the game's leading scorer, after finishing with 26 points and 60 percent from range. It's clear that the absence of Fuchs and Bikau showed against the Blue Hens; however, one of the bright spots for the Rams was sophomore forward Stewart, who was given the opportunity with several pieces missing on Saturday. Stewart provided the Rams with frontcourt depth and impressed offensively. He finished with eight points and was perfect from the floor in 17 minutes off the bench.
"I think just putting Rory into the game right away, you saw a much more confident group playing together, you saw a group that was functionally offensively playing without turning it over as much,"- Coach Archie Miller
The Rams dropped this one to the Blue Hens 56-67 and are 5-6 on the season; head coach Archie Miller stated in his postgame press conference that he thought this was the best defensive performance the team had played against a good team all season.
We hope this will motivate the team as they prepare to take on New Hampshire on Thursday at the Ryan Center. With conference play around the corner, the Rams will look to turn things around.