An occasional series about the University of Rhode Island Women’s Basketball Team and Coach Cathy Inglese as she tries to turnaround a losing program.
By Laura Pappano
At halftime, I thought there was no way.
Yes it was close, the half ending at 23-21, with Fairfield up by two. But Fairfield was in a rhythm. Their shots fell. Their passes were crisp and smart. They were getting inside. They seemed to know where teammates were, moving like dancers in a well-choreographed piece.
Rhode Island was scrappy, unsure. Players seemed surprised when passes arrived in their hands. Shots were close, but bounced out, skimmed the rim, fell like sour notes in a concert. These were ugly baskets.
In the end, of course, it doesn’t matter how you get the points. For those who love the art of basketball, know that by the end the Rams were elegant, with acrobatic drives through the paint and sailing 3-pointers that slipped through the net. Captain Megan Shoniker (#10) made three and Ashley Rivera (#12) made a key long basket in the final three minutes of play to put the score at 48-44 before a fouling festival by Fairfield brought the final to 52-44.
In the second half, the Rams played like a team that expected to win. They were rising, stepping, and shooting with a confidence that suggested that whether or not they deserved it, they decided to own it. They did not so much win this game as take it. They persisted, even when trailing by 10 points.
So what did Head Coach Cathy Inglese say at halftime? What were the magic words?
She says, she just complemented them, focused on telling them what they were doing right. “We were getting the looks, we were taking the shots. We were just missing them,” she said. “They were a little hyped up. I said, ‘Be patient.'”
Fairfield is a good team. “They are a strong offensive team,” observed Inglese. “They don’t waste a dribble or a pass. But our kids just kept going.”
It’s far too early to tell what this all means. Yes, it was he second come-from-behind win on the road within days (on Saturday they closed a six-point half-time gap against NJIT to win 57-51).
Yes, the early rankings have URI near the bottom of the A-10. But the beauty of leading a turnaround is that you don’t worry about what is supposed to be. You don’t listen to the conventional wisdom, to the downer that three players are out with injuries, to opponents that were 3-0, to the goofy band guys in red and white striped shirts razzing you at the foul line. You don’t dwell on the schedule that has you on the road for a tough stretch.
You play with heart. You play with passion. You play with discipline. You make mistakes. You move on. You step up and try again. And again. And again. Sure, Fairfield might have had more plays, better passing. But in the end, Rhode Island was in it for every single minute of the game.