Metropolitan State (2-0) vs. Rhode Island (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, November 18, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: McKale Center (14,545) -- Tucson, Arizona. Television: None. Home Record: MSU 0-0, URI 2-0. Away Record: MSU 0-0, URI 0-1. Neutral Record: MSU 2-0, URI 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 0-0, URI 0-0. Series Record: First- ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The number one ranked Division II program will test its talent at the next level, as the Metropolitan State Roadrunners take on the Rhode Island Rams in the NIT Season Tip-Off at the McKale Center.
Metro State came up just short of winning the Division II National Championship in 2012-13 as it lost by just a single point to Drury in the title game in Atlanta to finish with a 32-3 record. The Roadrunners entered this season as the No. 1 ranked team in their division and improved to 2-0 over the weekend with a pair of double-digit victories at the Al Kaly Shrine Classic in Pueblo, Colorado. Coach Derrick Clark owns an 81-18 record at the school after spending two years as an assistant under Jeff Bzdelik at the Air Force Academy. This contest will be considered an exhibition for the Roadrunners.
The Rams bounced back from a 31-point setback to SMU on Friday with a 72-59 win over North Carolina A&T. Coach Dan Hurley's team showed improvement down the stretch in 2012-13, yet it still ended the campaign with an 8-21 overall record. The victory over the Aggies improved the team to 2-1 on the early season. Both of URI's wins came at home. The Rams lost both of their neutral sited games in Mid-November last season.
The Roadrunners have a very effective one-two punch in senior guard Brandon Jefferson and junior center Nicholas Kay. Both players are netting 19 points per game to account for 55 percent of Metro State's scoring. Six of Jefferson's nine made shots have come from behind the arc and he has also converted 14- of-16 attempts at the charity stripe. The 6-foot-9 Kay is shooting 52 percent from the floor and also adds six boards per game. Metro State's strength is on the defensive end, which it has held its first two opponents to just 47 ppg on 31.8 efficiency from the field.
Rhode Island returned an all-conference caliber guard in Xavier Munford, who posted 17.4 points per game last season to lead the squad. Munford has not been able to find his shooting touch yet during his senior year which has led to a 7-of-32 clip from the floor that includes only two makes on 16 attempts from beyond the arc. Freshman guard K.C. Matthews had scored in double-figures in two-straight outings including his career-best 18 points in 22 minutes against North Carolina A&T on Friday. The 6-8 sophomore Ifeanyi Onyekaba was a force in the paint, posting a double-double in his debut for the Rams. Onyekaba finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds. He has since seen his playing time limited after committing nine fouls over the past two games. URI has plenty of depth as all 15 players that dressed for the bout against the Aggies saw time on the floor with nine different Rams contributing to the scoring. The bench combined for a season-high 39 points to mark the third consecutive game the reserves have provided 30 points or more.
Metro State is capable of taking down a handful of Division I opponents. There is plenty of reason to doubt URI so far due to the struggles of Munford. The Rams will need to give a solid effort to avoid falling in this one, but they should be able to escape the Roadrunners if they use their size advantage properly.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rhode Island 70, Metropolitan State 61
11/18 10:32:21 ET