Game Preview: SLU-Rhode Island

SLU takes on lowly Rhode Island on Saturday in its penultimate road contest of the year.

Although much of the day was about Brian Conklin, thoughts shifted somewhat quickly to Rhode Island, the Billikens upcoming opponent.

Despite the Rams struggles this season, it won't be difficult for SLU to find motivation to win the game on Saturday.

"We definitely owe them one from last year," senior forward Brian Conklin said. "They ended our season. It wasn't the season we had hoped for, and they are the ones that really put a cap on it. You obviously want to get some payback."

Sitting at 5-23 and 2-11 in Atlantic 10 play, Rhody is most definitely in a rebuilding period with a young roster.

"They're an athletic team," Conklin said. "They're young. A lot of guys from years past are not there anymore."

Conklin highlighted Nikola Malesevic and Orion Outerbridge as two players to stop on the defensive end.

Additionally, freshman Jonathan Holton has been a bright spot for URI this year. He'll likely take home Rookie of the Year honors in the league.

"He's an athletic specimen definitely," Conklin said. "He goes after the offensive boards hard but he likes to get in foul trouble. We're going to attack him on our offensive end to be able to get him in foul trouble and off the floor because if he's on the floor for 35 minutes, he's going to end up with 18 boards."

The Billikens figure to have a very specific gameplan against the Rams, which will likely feature slowing the pace at times. URI likes to get out and run, and although SLU would like to take advantage of its own transition opportunities, the Bills may grind things to a halt intentionally to break the rhythm.

Although it seems as though second place is sewed up, first place is still not completely out of the realm of possibilities. If Temple drops a game on Saturday at St. Joe's, the Billikens have the potential to share a piece of the Atlantic 10 regular season title.

"To be able to just have champion at the end of the St. Louis University name, that would be fantastic," Conklin said. "After the year we've had, after the building years the first couple of years, in our last year to go out and have champion attached to the St. Louis University name would just mean the world definitely. It would be good for the community I think."

With an NCAA bid in close proximity, SLU has discussed it, but isn't completely sold just yet.

"Among the team we talk about 'that would be sweet', but to no detail like what seed or location. Obviously that's the ultimate goal and we want to make it to the tournament. That starts with Rhode Island."

Prediction: SLU 68, URI 59

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