Jeff Dowtin elevates for the contested jumper, helping URI on their way to their first win of the season. Photo by Autumn Walter.
The second year of the David Cox era started in the positives for Rhode Island Men’s Basketball, as they cruised to a 76-65 victory over Long Island University.
The Rams were paced by familiar faces in upperclassmen Fatts Russell, Cyril Langevine and Jeff Dowtin. Russell led the University of Rhode Island in scoring, pouring in 18 points while shooting 6-12 from the field.
Playing the role as lead facilitator for the Rhody offense as well, Russell dropped seven dimes, but didn’t force the issue as he finished the game with zero turnovers.
For Langevine, it was the first of most likely many double-doubles on the year, as he finished the game with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Langevine was active on both sides of the glass, finishing with eight offensive boards and seven on the defensive side of the court.
Dowtin also played his game in this one. Timely shot making and facilitating offensively led to him scoring 13 points and assisting three times. Dowtin also added six rebounds, helping a Rhode Island frontcourt that’s a little on the thin side.
“It was great to start off the season with a win,” said Cox. “It wasn’t the prettiest of wins. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it was a win.”
With Antwan Walker and Jeremy Sheppard’s waiver requests both being denied, the Rams will have to lean on and get production from their freshmen this season if their NCAA Tournament hopes are to remain alive.
An early sign of good things to come was the play of forward Jacob Toppin, who bounded off the Rhode Island bench Tuesday night and asserted himself immediately. His aggressive play both offensively and defensively impressed his head coach.
“He’s a confident young man,” said Cox. “He’s athletic, he’s skilled. His defensive effort was really, really good. He definitely brings tremendous value to this team.”
In 16 minutes of game action, Toppin finished his debut with 11 points and seven rebounds coming off the bench. Toppin got to the charity stripe six times, nailing five of them. Shooting 50 percent from the floor on the evening and also having a thunderous rejection on the defensive side of the ball, Toppin was the biggest bench contributor of the evening for URI.
“It was different for me,” said Toppin. “The pace was very different, but everyone had my back. Everyone was telling me to just play my game and it made it much easier.”
Tyrese Martin also cemented a strong start for himself in the beginning of his sophomore campaign. The second year swingman scored 13 points on an efficient 5-9 from the field. Martin attempted six threes as well, nailing three of them. Much like his teammates, Martin played a complete game, adding eight rebounds and four assists to the stat sheet.
As a team, Rhode Island defended at an elite clip in this one. The Rams forced LIU to shoot an abysmal 32 percent from the field, and only 30 percent from the three point arc. Rhody also added two blocks and five steals as a team, remaining true to their identity of active defensive play.
On the other side of the ball, URI had their fair share of offensive struggles. The Rams shot 39 percent from the field and 35 percent from three. With games against NCAA tournament hopefuls such as Maryland, Alabama, LSU, West Virginia and Providence College on the horizon, the Rams will need to convert at a higher clip offensively to get out of their non-conference schedule with a few resume-building victories.
Rhody now switches their sights to a date with No. 7 overall Maryland, as they travel to College Park on Saturday night to take on a Terrapins team that has championship aspirations for the season.
Be sure to watch our video recap as well!