Murray’s turkey-themed takeaways from NIT Preseason Tournament

Jared Terrell is the Main Dish for URI Basketball

Like a Thanksgiving turkey, Jared Terrell is the dish that ties the entire feast together, in this case being the centerpiece of URI’s offense. Scoring 43 points throughout the tourney, including matching his jersey number with 32 points against Seton Hall, Terrell hit the game-winning layup against the Pirates with 5.2 seconds left while also going a perfect 10 of 10 from the charity stripe. His performance against Virginia was subpar at best, going four of 11 from the field with 11 points, which is a reason why Rhode Island struggled to get an offensive rhythm going against the Cavaliers at times. Defensively, Terrell was stellar against the Pirates, holding scoring leader Desi Rodriguez to 12 points on five of 13 shooting, while also chipping in two steals against Virginia the following game. If this tournament is any indication of the level of competition the Rams will face all year, Terrell is crucial for Rhode Island’s success offensively, so put him in some saran wrap to keep him fresh for the rest of the non-conference slate. Dan Hurley seems to agree, calling him, “the best player on the court [that day], and there were some really high-level players on the court.”

The First Halves Were Scrumptious, But Throw Away the Second Halves

Rhode Island had a feast in the first half against Seton Hall scoring a season high 54 points, the team’s most in a half since they put up 59 in the first half against Marist on Nov. 14, 2016. They shot 60.7 percent from the field in that first half, their highest since shooting 63.3 percent against St. Louis on Dec. 30, 2016 in the second half. Against Virginia, the team kept pace with the Cavaliers, going into halftime with a three-point deficit against the second best scoring defense in the country. But like the Thanksgiving leftovers a week later, the second halves in both games were one to throw away. Rhode Island shot eight of 31 from the field in the second half against the Pirates, good enough for 25.8 percent for those who want to do the math. Against Virginia they failed to make a three-pointer and missed six out of 10 free throws. Despite Rhode Island coming away with a tremendous victory in the final seconds against the Pirates, Rhode Island will have to become a much better second half team as the year progresses. Like most Thanksgiving dinners, basketball is a two-course (or half) meal.

Like Cranberry Sauce Defenders, Virginia Is the Best Defense Rhode Island Will Face All Year

Our own Stone Freeman once compared Dan Hurley to Virginia’s head coach Tony Bennett, and Hurley should gobble up that praise with some biscuits and gravy. Under Bennett’s ten-year tenure, Virginia has never ranked under 54 in scoring defense, and this year they are currently the second best allowing only 52.3 points per game. This year they are ranked first in kenpom.com defensive efficiency ratings, a great indicator for college basketball rankings. Their previous opponent in the tournament, Vanderbilt, was held to 25 points until the final 8:48 remaining, and ended up with 42 points. Wisconsin only put up 37 points on Virginia this past Monday. Losing 70-55 is not indicative of how Rhode Island played as a whole against the Cavaliers, and had Stanford Robinson not been in foul trouble and fouled out the score may have been closer. It’s also important to note that getting E.C. Matthews and Cyril Langevine back should tremendously improve Rhode Island’s offense, so should they run into a defense like Virginia again they should fare better next time around. On a personal note, the people who defend cranberry sauce are the best food defenders out there. The fact that they can actually convince others that cranberry sauce tastes remotely good is impressive in its own right.

Like Avoiding Politics at the Dinner Table, the Seton Hall Victory is Key

No. 20 Seton Hall is the highest ranked opponent Rhode Island has beaten since Hurley took over the Rams in 2012, and the victory will be Rhode Island’s rally cry come Selection Sunday in March. Angel Delgado is arguably the best center in college basketball, and the Rams were able to keep the Seton Hall senior in check without Langevine and force him to commit six turnovers. Seton Hall coming into the game was allowing a stingy 63.5 points per game, and the Rams managed to surpass that with 11:03 left in the game. The biggest takeaway from this game Rhode Island was able to put the game away in the final seconds. In games that hark back to Oregon last year and Providence in years past, Rhode Island had not been able to seal the deal late when it mattered, as a Ben Bentil tip-in two years ago and a Tyler Dorsey three-point shot in the final seconds of the Round of 32 matchup sent Rhode Island home angry. Against a legitimate ranked team, Rhode Island was able to put away the Pirates and garner a great resume builder moving forward.