The Rhode Island Rams will live to see another day after making it to their first Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinal in five years.
In a battle plagued by whistle-happy officials (there were 49 fouls called between both teams), Rhode Island relied on its suffocating defense last night to eliminate the George Washington Colonials by a final score of 71-58 in front of 7,423 attendees at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Sophomores Hassan Martin and E.C. Matthews, freshman Jared Terrell and junior Biggie Minnis were all in foul trouble for some, or most of the game. Matthews and head coach Dan Hurley were also hit with technical fouls at key moments of the game. Hurley said it was an emotional team win.
“Coming into this game we were obviously excited about the opportunity to play in the quarterfinals and get some rest because we knew the quality of the team we were playing here,” he said. “The defense was as good as it’s been, especially in the second half, as it’s been all year and huge credit to our players.”
Rhode Island was led on the offensive end by clutch shooting from Matthews and freshman Jarvis Garrett. Matthews hit 10 of 11 free throws and Garrett was 3-of-6 from 3-point land. They scored 21 and 12 respectively and hit clutch shots when they mattered most.
Senior T.J. Buchanan also had 12 points to show for his efforts, but his main presence was felt on the defensive side of the ball with three steals. Martin was only able to play 22 minutes, though he shook off the rust in the second half and ended with five blocks. Minnis also provided a spark from the bench with two steals in extended minutes.
One night removed from making 10 3-pointers against the Duquesne Dukes, George Washington hit its sole triple after more than 30 minutes against URI and finished 1-of-16. GW had made at least 10 threes in each of its last five games before being shut down on Friday. The Rams were also able to hold the Colonials to 21 percent shooting from the field in the second half on 7-of-33 shooting.
“A couple of them rimmed out, I thought we were getting good looks still,” Colonials senior forward John Kopriva said. “I don’t think that was 16 bad shots, I think we had good looks, but they just didn’t go down.”
As the Rams continue in their pursuit of the A-10 Championship and the automatic berth in NCAA Tournament that comes with it, both Matthews and Garrett said that the win was a result of the entire team’s efforts. All players with at least five minutes of playing time had at least five points and two rebounds.
“I’d just like to thank my teammates, my teammates helped me do it,” Garrett said. “They kept giving me the ball when I was wide open and they kept trusting in me.”
“I think this was a team win and everybody had a part in it,” Matthews said. “I’m happy we get to play another game and I get to play with these guys here. I love them.”
The Rams will be taking on the University of Dayon today at 4 p.m. In their last matchup less than two weeks ago, the Flyers beat URI 75-59 in Ohio, where they were perfect on the season. Dayton is significantly better at home than on the road or neutral courts, where they are 8-7.
Today’s game will be broadcast on URI’s radio network WRIU 90.3 FM and CBS Sports Network.