The University of Rhode Island women’s basketball team, behind a career night from superstar freshman Charise Wilson, rebounded from a tough loss last Friday against Richmond to beat Atlantic 10 cellar dweller the University of Massachusetts 70-58.
Wilson’s explosion saw her post 33 points, which is the most by any Atlantic 10 player this season, and lead all scorers.
In the first half the Minutemen came out of the gates on fire, connecting on six of their first nine 3-point attempts eventually building a 12-point lead in the first half. Leading the onslaught from behind the arc for the Minutemen was Emily Mital and Leah McDerment, who combined to go 5-for-6 from deep.
However, after the furious start for the Minutemen and conversely the tough start for the Rams, things started to even out and the Rams chipped away at the lead. Led by Wilson and junior guard Tayra Melendez, who combined for 22 of the 28 points for the Rams in the first half, Rhode Island would go on a 15-5 run and narrow the halftime deficit to just two points at 30-28.
“The biggest thing for us is not only playing good defense, but we need to convert them too,” Melendez said. “If we can get steals and get easy baskets it takes advantage of it.”
Aside from the first-half performances by Melendez and Wilson, Rhode Island’s defense stepped up as they held the Minutemen to just five field goals on 17 attempts inside the arc in the first half and forced 16 turnovers with their press. The miscues would amount to 15 points for the Rams and kept themselves afloat despite their shooting woes. They shot just 29 percent from the field.
“I think our press helped us,” Rhode Island head coach Daynia La-Force said. “They do not handle the press well, and we really used it to help us get ahead in the first half.”
Despite forcing only six turnovers in the second half, the Rams really ratcheted up the pressure. Rhode Island sped up the Minutemen and forced them to shoot just 30 percent from the field in the second half. The Rams also limited the Minutemen to just four made 3-pointers in the second half, essentially stunting the Minutemen’s best offense from the first half, and holding them to just 28 second-half points.
“We knew we had to play tougher in the second half,” Wilson said. “The energy from our press really translated to offense for us too.”
In addition to playing solid defense, the Rams also took care of the ball, committing just one turnover in the first half after having eight in the first half. The Rams also cleaned up their problems on the glass as after getting outrebounded 22-13 in the first half, the margin narrowed to being just 23-18 in the second half. The result of those two improvements was a more efficient offense for the Rams, allowing them to score 42 points in the second half and shoot 13-for-26 overall from the field.
“We really put an emphasis on getting their post players off the blocks in the second half,” La-Force said. “Our sets really helped us and we were able to get 10 offensive rebounds because of it.”
The combination was successful as the Rams outscored the Minutemen by 14 in the second half and were able to capture a 70-58 win.
After the win the Rams record now stands at 5-4 in Atlantic 10 play, and 13-8 overall, while the Minutemen fall to 2-7 in Atlantic 10 play and 8-13 overall.
The Rams play next on Sunday as they travel to St. Bonaventure to take on the Bonnies, who currently sit in second-to-last place in the Atlantic 10.