Makhel Mitchell and the Rams struggled to get much going at Saint Louis (Photo courtesy SLU)
By KEVIN WEHNER
It was more of the same for the Rhode Island Rams Wednesday night. A little assist from the Saint Louis Billikens didn’t help matters.
URI once again battled a stagnant offense and double-digit turnovers and the result was its fourth-straight loss, 67-60, at Saint Louis.
Saint Louis star senior Jordan Goodwin led the way with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals and 6 assists as spiraling Rhode Island dropped its fourth straight game.
URI (9-12, 6-8 A-10) now falls to 2-7 in true road games. The Rams are three games under .500 and appear headed to a losing season for the first time since 2013-14. The last time URI dropped this many consecutive contests was a five-game skid in February 2019, during coach David Cox’s first year at the helm.
Saint Louis (9-3, 2-2 A-10) is no slouch and will be fighting for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament throughout the next month. The Billikens showed the caliber of team they are by controlling the tempo, forcing URI into their style of basketball and playing excellent defense in holding the visitors to 32 percent shooting. SLU didn’t allow the Rams to get out into transition and pound the ball inside for many easy buckets.
“They are a really good team, whenever we gave them an opening they exposed us and took advantage of it,” Cox said.
Finding scoring outside of senior guards Fatts Russell (4-14 FG) and Jeremy Sheppard (5-12 FG) continues to be a glaring issue. The duo posted 31 points combined and big man Makhel Mitchell was also in double-figures with 10. After that the offensive production was minimal, with the other seven players who took the floor combining for just 19 points. Coach Cox ensured that the team is still confident in its shooting ability despite recent struggles.
“We stepped into shots with confidence,” Cox said.
URI went on an 8-0 run in the first half and led 16-8. Saint Louis then swiftly responded with a 19-4 run to end the half up 27-21 and never looked back. Saint Louis kept its opponent at a safe distance and was able to earn its second-straight conference win.
The Billikens look to be back in business, after dropping the first two conference matchups in a season that has been filled with eight postponements due to COVID-19 cases within the program.
The charge was led by guard Goodwin, one of the nation’s premier stat stuffer. It was his 32nd career double-double. The dynamic guard scored from all three levels and showed why he’s garnered national recognition.
“He’s a problem,” Cox said of the Billikens star. “He handles the ball, he can make open threes and he’s a bully in the paint and on the glass.”
Rhode Island’s next game was scheduled for Saturday at Davidson but that’s been postponed due to complications with COVID-19 in the Wildcats program. While the weekend off will provide the Rams more than a four day break for the first time since December, Rhody is anxiously awaiting some rescheduling news from the A-10 offices. Right now URI has just two games remaining on its schedule: Feb. 16 vs. Dayton and March 2 vs. Saint Joseph’s.
While other A-10 teams have several games to make up due to Covid pauses, the Rams have not been shut down all season.