Rhody is a guard-oriented team. Like the Mountaineers, three players average double figures for the Rams, but all of those are backcourt performers.
The guard duo of Dawan Robinson (6-2, 185) and Brian Woodward (6-3, 200) lead the team with scoring averages of 15.5 and 13.1 per game, respectively. Robinson handles the traditional point guard duties, but both are solid passers, combining for almost half of the Rams' assists. Robinson is also the more likely of the pair to put up a three-pointer, but both excel and driving and drawing contact. No one else on the team is within 80 free throw attempts of either player.
Off the bench, Dustin Hellenga (6-5, 210), who started more than two-thirds of the Rams' games, and is another shooter to contend with. He averages 11 points per game, and has taken more three-pointers than any temamate. He's also a solid ballhandler who provides a physical presence on defense. Steve Mello (6-1, 185) also provides quality minutes in the backcourt rotation.
With much of the scoring punch in the backcourt, the Ram forwards and centers serve a complementary role. Forwards Terrence Mack (6-6, 230) and Jamal Wise (6-5, 220) are solid defenders and role players, but aren't likely to break out big numbers. Mack averages 5.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, while Wise tallies 6.3 points and 4.5 boards per outing. Center Jon Clark (6-10, 245) chips in with 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
The front court subs are a case of the whole being stronger than the sum of its parts. Marcel Momplaisir (6-8, 205) leads the team in blocked shots while averageing fewer than 20 minutes per game. His averages of 3.3 points and 4.4 rebounds are complemented by Scot Hazleton (6-8, 225) who averages 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per appearance, and J.R. Moore (6-8, 235).
WVU's wings on the 1-3-1 defense will face a different sort of challenge against the Rhody backcourt on Friday evening.
|Fri 3/19 7:00 p.m.|
WVU - 97
RI - 82
|Margin: WV +5|
Rhode Island's guards are good penetrators who excel at getting inside the perimeter and creating shots. Both of the Rams' starters are quick enough to put the ball on the floor and get by opposing guards, so they figure to have an advantage when they are confronted by WVU's wing players, who probably have less foot speed than many foes they have faced.
WVU must counter that by playing smart, position-oriented defense to cut down those driving lanes. The Mountaineers might also use some different defensive alingments, but the principles will remain the same - stay balanced, don't fly out at perimeter ballhandlers, and cut down on penetration angles by forcing dribblers wide.
On offense, WVU could force the Rams to adjust their personnel by getting their big men involved early. If Pittsnogle and D'or Fischer can hit a few outside shots, or if either can take advantage of their matchups to score over shorter defenders, Rhode Island might be forced to play a bit bigger lineup, which would negate some of their penetration ability.
Although Rhode Island looks like a copy of Kent State, they aren't. The Rams, who average fewer than four successful three-pointers per game, are much more likely to penetrate and take a midrange shot or attempt to drive the ball to the basket than the Golden Flashes, who often kicked the ball back out for three point attempts. However, Rhody is much more balanced in their offensive attack than Kent State, although their guards still take the majority of their shots.
The Rams' style of offense will be more difficult for WVU's 1-3-1 defense to contend with, as Rhody shooters that make it past the first line of Mountaineer defenders will be more likely to pull up for a 10-15 foot shot, or challenge WVU's interior defenders, than Kent State was.
To combat that, WVU might not extend their 1-3-1 quite so much, and may be more focused on cutting down their opponents' paths to the hoop than they are of preventing three-point attempts.
West Virginia put Kent game away after getting some drives of their own going to the hoop, so look for WVU to establish some offensive balance of their own. However, the tender ankles of Relph and Durisseau-Collins might remove some of the bounce from their steps, meaning that Tyrone Sally and Joe Herber could again share the bulk of the load in attacking the basket.
Rhode Island also rebounds well as a team, with the guards getting to the basket and pulling down almost as many boards as the frontcourt players do. West Virginia must have a determined rebounding effort from everyone on the floor to keep the Rams from getting too many second chances.
Rhode Island's hoops fortunes have been something of a feast or famine over the past decade. In that ten-year span, Rhode Island has either won or lost at least 20 games in each season.
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Patrick Beilein passed Kevin Pittsnogle on the career three-point field goal list by canning three against Kent State. In an identical 58 career games, Beilein has 99 treys, and Pittsnogle 97.
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Rhode Island trainer Jim Belmaggio is a native of Morgantown and a 1998 graduate of WVU.
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West Virginia is 6-4 in NIT games at the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers' last NIT home win was in 1997, when they knocked off Bowling Green 98-95.
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John Beilein and URI coach Jim Baron are familiar foes. This will be the 13th meeting between the two coaches. From 1992-96, Baron's St. Bonaventure teams were 6-3 vs. Beilein's squads at Canisius. Beilein's Richmond team was 1-0 against Baron's Rhode Island team in the Atlantic 10.