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Rhode Island defense steps up without Hassan Martin

The Rams relied on defense to take down ODU

NCAA Basketball: Rhode Island at Providence Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH KINGSTON, R.I. — After two straight losses, Rhode Island was dealt another blow heading into its game against Old Dominion: star forward Hassan Martin was sidelined indefinitely with a quad injury.

However, the Rams ended their losing streak Tuesday, and it was all about defense. Without Martin, URI held ODU to below 40 points in a 51-39 home win.

E.C. Matthews stepped up after shooting 10-of-35 in his last four games, leading the way with a game-high 15 points. Matthews managed to score 12 of those points in the first half, starting the game aggressively with a drive and finish at the basket.

The Rams allowed a season-low in points and field goal percentage, stifling the Monarchs throughout the night. ODU entered the game struggling offensively, averaging 61 points per game — good for 336th in Div. I. But defensively, the Monarchs have been one of the best teams in the country, holding teams to 58.6 points a game (seventh in Div. I).

One of the key moments happened toward the end of the opening half.

ODU went without a basket over the final 6:20 of the first half, allowing URI to go on a a 14-2 run en route to a 31-17 halftime lead.

URI's defense took advantage of a Monarch team that ranks toward the bottom nationally in effective field goal percentage. The Rams challenged ODU’s offense on what seemed like every possession down the floor during the first half, forcing the Monarchs into just 7-for-24 shooting.

The 17 points that the Monarchs were able to score highlighted a season-best for URI’s defense and season-worst for ODU’s offense.

But the Rams clearly missed Martin’s offense.

URI never could break the game open with its play on offense, finishing with a season-low in points. In the second half the Rams were just 4-of-21 from the field and finished 13-of-28 from the foul line to go along with 15 turnovers. They scored just four points in the first eight minutes of the second half.

Without knowing the severity of Martin’s injury, URI might have to rely on its defense moving forward. On Tuesday night at least, the Rams showed that they are more than capable.