Thursday night saw the emotional rollercoaster for the Rhode Island men’s basketball team come to a crashing halt as the reality of a short bench, banged-up team and inconsistent play finally caught up with them for good, dropping their opening-round game against UMass 67-62.
The game started off about as poorly as one could have imagined for Rhody, as it fell behind 22 -6 and 32-15 at different points in the first half.
However, after falling behind 32-15, the Rams went on a 12-5 run to close the gap at halftime to just 10 points at 37-27, despite shooting 37 percent from the field and making just one 3-pointer.
The real story of the first half, unfortunately for Rhode Island fans, was on the other side as Jabarie Hinds had himself a half, going 7-of-11 from the field, converting all three of his 3-pointers and coming up with three steals on his way to a 17-point half.
“Defensively we started off slow,” sophomore Jared Terrell said. “Jabarie Hinds started off real quick. He was scoring the ball at will and shots for us just weren’t falling.”
The beginning of the second half was much like the first half as they struggled to cut into the Minutemen’s lead hovering around 11 points down throughout.
However, then Rhody did what they did all season. Fight back despite their limited depth and overall ability.
The result was seeing the Rams claw back from the 11-point deficit they faced and come all the way back and take a 59-58 lead with just 1:49 left in the game on the strength of a Jared Terrell 3-pointer.
Unfortunately that lead would be short-lived, as on the other end UMass guard Trey Davis would get fouled and converted both of his free throws just 25 seconds after Rhode Island took the lead, giving the Minutemen a 60-59 lead.
The final daggers came on the following possessions after Terrell missed a shot from close range that would have given the Rams back a one-point lead, UMass’s Trey Davis then ran the clock down to 33 seconds and knocked down a Â 3-pointer to give UMass the 63-59 lead, and ultimately the win.
“It was obviously a tough way for our season to end,” head coach Dan Hurley said. “It was kind of like the game was a microcosm of the season. I thought our guys showed tremendous resiliency, character and toughness.“
Perhaps epitomizing that toughness was senior Earl Watson, who on his last night as a Ram, and one on which the rest of the team struggled offensively, forced his way in the low paint area for a parting double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds.
Rhode Island finished the season with a 17-15 record with a 9-9 mark in Atlantic 10 play.
Note: Thomas Porter contributed quotes from the Atlantic 10 Tournament to this story.