Without the efforts of their leading scorer, E.C. Matthews, the Rams halted a late comeback from St. Bonaventure to earn their fifth conference win Sunday afternoon at the Thomas M. Ryan Center, 53-48.
Freshman Jared Terrell lessened the blow of missing Matthews’ 17.0 points per game with a career-high 19, including 3-for-6 shooting from behind the arc, to help improve the University of Rhode Island’s record to 13-5. Sidelined with a foot injury, Sunday was the first game Matthews did not start for Rhode Island since his first collegiate game on Nov. 26, 2013, against McNeese State.
“We found out E.C. wasn’t going to be able to play and I had to step up to the challenge,” Terrell said. “They found me in good spots and I was able to make shots.”
Sophomore Hassan Martin silenced the Bonnies’ offense with 11 total rebounds and seven blocks, giving him 17 in the last two contests and 60 in 18 games. Martin helped hold St. Bonaventure senior Youssou Ndoye to just six points despite averaging 12.2 on the season. Bonnies junior forward Dion Wright led all scorers with 22.
As a unit, the Rams kept St. Bonaventure’s scoring limited to just 20 in the first half. It was the second straight game and fourth time overall that the team allowed 20 or fewer in the first 20 minutes.
“We were on a mission to get this win today,” Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley said. “We want to play towards the top of the league, that’s our goal. Whether we have key players out or not, you can always find a way to win, especially if you defend the way we defend.”
Senior guard T.J. Buchanan played key minutes in the second half and scored five of his nine points at the free-throw line in the last 2:13. Buchanan dove for a loose ball to complete the steal with his team up one point to help hold St. Bonaventure to only three field goals in the final 10:13.
“I know I had to step up and make a lot of plays today, especially with one of the best players in the A-10 being out,” Buchanan said. “We just had to grind it out today and I was just grateful I could step up and hit some big free throws.”
Rhode Island continued its winning ways last night when they defeated Fordham on the road, 64-63, behind a buzzer-beating putback from senior Gilvydas Biruta. Terrell contributed another 18 points and Biruta added nine rebounds.
The Rams will return home to the Ryan Center on Saturday at 4 p.m. for a matchup against the George Washington Colonials, one of the top competitors in the Atlantic 10, before heading back on the road for two games. The Colonials are 6-2 in the A-10 and post only a 3-5 record on the road.