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Rhody pushes back and grabs win away from Yale – trip to Providence up next

Rhody pushes back and grabs win away from Yale – trip to Providence up next

URI’s Luis Kortright defending a shot in the 2nd half comeback (Photo: Christopher Cost-Kirkpatrick)


SOUTH KINGSTOWN – On this night, there should be no talk about Providence, a rivalry game or state bragging rights.

This was a night when Archie Miller’s Rhode Island Rams fought back. Down by 18 points after 15 first half minutes to a veteran, hard-nosed Yale Bulldog team, Rhody went to its locker room at the break trailing 44-32 and seethed. When it reappeared, the Rams played defense, the type of defense that Miller says he is demanding from this group and the type that has shown up only in fits and starts.

URI (5-2) found its defensive claws throughout the second half and rallied for an impressive 76-72 win. The Rams won the second half, 44-28, holding the Bulldogs (4-3) to 39 percent shooting after halftime. An array of players helped on offense with Luis Kortright scoring seven in the go-ahead stretch and finishing with 15 points. Zek Montgomery added 14 and grabbed six offensive rebounds, showing the type of fight that Miller is craving.

“We’re constantly trying to plead and prod to get the effort level to where it needs to get to,” Miller said. “What we figured out there at halftime very quickly was who was going to be the group that was going to play the hardest defensively and at that point in time we were going to figure out what we were made of.”

That defensive group eventually included Josaphat Bilau, the 6-10 junior from France who was injured for the bulk of last season. He gave the Rams a post presence they badly needed. Montgomery (Bradley) and Kortright (Quinnipiac) own the experience the Rams need and while Jaden House (High Point) didn’t have his best scoring game (2-8 FG, 7 points), he always plays at high speed. Miller also found some helpers. Freshman Cam Estevez made some key second half shots. Brandon Weston dug in on defense and forward Tyson Brown (10 points, 2 blocks) helped the Rams to a whopping 40-26 rebound advantage.

The Rams were coming off losses to Northwestern and Washington State last weekend where Miller conceded “we needed to get our butt whipped.” That experience – plus getting twisted and turned inside out by Yale’s 44 points on 58 percent shooting in the first half – added up to a breaking point. Miller was clearly happy that his players answered the call.

“This was one of our best wins that we’ve had at home here in awhile,” Miller said. “Learning to win is important. Until you go through this a few times, it can be tough. Sometimes you need evidence.”


Of course building on the best win of the season and one of Miller’s best in a year and seven games of his tenure in Kingston is the trick. The Rams have fallen behind by whopping margins against Northwestern (22-2) and Yale (39-21) and can ill-afford to do that very many times again this season. That could spell doom next Saturday at a jam-packed Amica Mutual Pavilion against the Friars or when the Rams run into other tough non-league foes like Charleston and Delaware.

“We just came out and played more physically, honestly,” said Tyson Brown. “We knew once we got (defensive) stops and get out and run, we can put it together easily.”

Asked what Miller’s words of wisdom were at the half, Brown did not flinch. “Guard somebody. Guard somebody and rebound. That’s what we did,” he said.

Brown and Kortright were both asked to look ahead to Saturday’s game against Providence. So was Miller. No one really was biting, and there was no reason to.

Who knows if this team is ready for a road test before blood-thirsty Friar fans. Much more important was to show the fight that the group put on display against Yale, being the physical team, the one that was not going to be denied. Those are traits that will come in handy against PC but also in virtually every other game on the schedule.

Seeing that fight and that toughness was step one. Miller is promising lineup changes that reflect his best defensive group, especially since “our best offense is defense to offense.” We’ll see what group the Rams emphasize Saturday night against Providence but Miller learned a little something about his group in this Yale game.

My guess is the players learned an awful lot about themselves as well.



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