The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team defeated Buffalo 80-72 in overtime on Saturday at the Ryan Center in a charity exhibition game held for the American Red Cross’ Disaster Relief Fund.

The game drew 1,363 fans to the Ryan Center, with all proceeds benefitting victims of the recent natural disasters in the United States. Admission fees were not collected, rather a suggested donation of $10 for the public and $5 per student.  

URI head coach Dan Hurley acknowledged that this game did much more than just prepare the Rams for regular season action. “It hasn’t been a great month for college basketball as an industry,” Hurley said. “Anything we can do to help out the community, or help groups of people that are struggling, any small part that we can play is important.”

As for the game itself, it certainly did not have the feel of an exhibition. The score was tied 15 times following the opening tip and there were 12 lead changes. The Rams led by two at the half and by three in the final seconds. Buffalo secured a rebound off a missed free throw and was able to tie the game at 68 with 13 seconds left, eventually sending it to overtime tied at 68.

Jared Terrell hit two early 3-pointers in overtime to give Rhode Island the lead for good. “You just really get into the game,” Terrell said. “The situation that we were put in, with it being tight and us having to clamp down and grind one out, actually felt like a real regular-season game.” Terrell, a senior, led all scorers with 24 points on the day, with 11 of those coming from the free throw line.

“It wasn’t ideal to coach it,” Hurley said. “But when you kind of survive it, it was an ideal experience for us less than two weeks away from Nov. 10.” On Nov. 10, the Rams open up the Ryan Center again, raising the Atlantic 10 Championship banner as well as the NCAA tournament banner prior to hosting UNC Asheville in the season opener.

The Rams overcame an ugly shooting performance, going 25-74 in the absence of senior E.C. Matthews. Matthews was a late scratch Saturday because of tendinitis in his left knee. “He’s got a long career ahead of him, and we need him ready Nov. 10th,” Hurley said. “He takes a lot of pressure off of everyone who’s on that court when he’s out there.”

Terrell, Jarvis Garrett and Cyril Langevine, all key players in last year’s NCAA tournament team, combined for 43 of the Rams 80 points. True freshman Fatts Russell also contributed with nine points of his own and stellar defense in 20 minutes of play.

Russell, making his debut for the Rams, found himself on the court late in the game when it mattered most, being out there as one of Hurley’s overtime starters. However, Russell said that it didn’t feel too new to him. “I was pretty used to it because our practices are really intense,” Russell said. “I’m going against J.T., E.C. and Jarvis every day, so it kind of prepared me for this.”

The Rams, picked in the preseason polls to repeat as A-10 Conference champions, look to use this game to prepare them for their regular season opener in less than two weeks.

“I think it improves our chances of being ready,” Hurley said. “We get a much better sense of who we need to be and how we need to play. I thought it was such a good thing for us, a chance to really see where you’ve got to get better.”