College basketball has long been synonymous with unpredictability and chaos, hence the name March Madness. It is then easy to overlook an upset as even the elite programs taste unforeseen defeat from time to time.
The celebration is glorious, but often temporary as the feeling of triumph is soon displaced by the realization that it was just, in fact, a fluke. The titans like Kansas and Kentucky move on, unscathed in the long run, while the victors’ feat may have minimal or no residual impact on the program’s status whatsoever.
It may then seem preposterous to overstate the University of Rhode Island’s 75-66, wire-to-wire road win over the formerly ranked and sure-fire NCAA tournament team, the Dayton Flyers this past Saturday. The program has long endured countless “oh so close” moments. So many that it becomes second nature to the faithful Rhody Ruckus, who mask their justified uneasiness and hesitance with their undying loyalty and fan hood. To them, it is monumental.
The Rams came into Dayton with a record barely above .500 (15-13) and a subpar conference record (7-8). They had lost three of their last four and were likely still feeling the effects of the gut-wrenching loss against the Flyers a couple weeks earlier at the Ryan Center.
Making matters worse was the realization that Hassan Martin’s season was done, thereby greatly diminishing the already slim prospects of an Atlantic 10 Tournament run. Taking all of their misfortunes into consideration, it would seem that their fate had been predetermined, setting up another loss under the microscope of national scrutiny (ESPN2) for a team who was 1-6 against conference foes on the road.
The Rams went completely off script with a barrage of 3-pointers to open the game with an 11-0 run. It looked as if they were finally able to put it all together, as the team played like they were projected to in the pre-season. Four McGlynn was 4-for-6 from downtown, tallying 16 points, and was complemented by Jared Terrell’s continued streak of impressive play, as he scored a game-high 18 points.
The most surprising element of the upset, however, was the emergence of sophomore Andre Berry, who nearly equaled his season total of points with a poised and perfect performance of 7-for-7 shooting from the field. His presence cannot be embellished, as depth has long been an issue for URI. Berry’s big night should give Martin some satisfaction, knowing that when impactful defender Earl Watson graduates this season, he will have help in the post.
URI maintained its pace all afternoon, shooting 56 percent from the field (28-50) and 52 percent from beyond the arc (9-17). The ball moved as fluidly as ever, with the Rams recording a season-high 18 assists, six of which came from Kuran Iverson, who played about as complete a game as he ever has, with 11 points and 6 rebounds.
It did seem however, that URI could have squandered it away, again being denied their moment, after the Flyers scored 11 unanswered points to make it a seven-point game with 3:15 left to play, but they did not waver. The Rams made their free throws, going 10-for-13 from the charity stripe, many of which were in crunch time.
Whether or not the win fuels success next week in the A-10 tournament, it was certainly therapeutic for a team that has withstood so much adversity and lost so many close games. Most of all, it was potentially a moment for fans and the team to look back on this game as the day they got over the hump.
Regardless of the circumstances behind it, and the fact that Dayton had lost two of its last three, the triumph represents the resilience of this team. After being marred by injury and eroded by several slim defeats, Rhode Island, at the very least, passed the threshold of “oh so close” moments, and now can move forward with the look and feel of a legitimate tournament team, in 2017 that is.