Photo by Autumn Walter | CIGAR | All of URI is excited to be cheering on the Rams basketball team in their upcoming game against the Davidson Wildcats this Friday.
On Monday afternoon the URI men’s basketball team checked in at No. 18 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Poll, the highest the program has ever been represented in the poll.
Well, this is fun, isn’t it?
The Rams are now ranked ahead of both North Carolina, No. 21, and Kentucky, No. 24. Now that’s something to write home to mom about.
“When you’ve been here from the start with a lot of these players, couple of guys on the staff now it’s hard not to take a look at the poll,” Dan Hurley said about the Rams moving up in the poll. “To see us ahead of Kentucky, I think it’s human nature. It’s hard not to have pride in that, to be excited about that. You feel good about that.”
Last week the Rams were the No. 22 team in the country and have now been featured in the poll for three straight weeks. URI was present on all but one AP voters ballot. The lone voter to leave Rhode Island off their ballot was Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star. Scott Mansch, columnist from the Great Falls Tribune in Great Falls, Montana, had the Rams at No. 10, the highest they appeared on any ballot.
Hurley and his Rams are coming off a perfect week on the road. The Rams took down both the UMass Minutemen and VCU Rams last week on each team’s own home court. No matter what conference you are in or the strength of the conference, winning on the road is tough to do. Both road victories contributed to the Rams moving up four spots in this week’s poll.
The Rams are hot and their star guard E.C. Matthews was also named one of the 10 finalists for Jerry West Award, the nation’s top collegiate shooting guard. “It wasn’t really on my mind,” Matthews said. “But, to get that recognition, in the country, it means I’m doing something right. As long as we keep winning I think any individual accolades they go hand and hand [with team success].”
Make no mistake, the ranking is impressive and the Rams are cruising through their Atlantic 10 slate but Hurley is not complacent. “The thing about the coach and players on this team is that we want more,” Hurley said. “We would like to keep winning and see how much bigger and better it can get.”
Rhody now returns home to take on the Davidson Wildcats on Friday night at the Ryan Center. Hurley and Matthews are both appreciative and expecting of a big showing from the Rhode Island faithful. “Shout out to the fans, they help us a lot,” Matthews said. “This being my last couple games, I need everybody. We need everybody.”
“You feel it when you see people,” Hurley said about the growing pride from the students and community at URI. “Whether you’re walking around here [the Ryan Center], or on campus or just really anywhere. Everyone that you come to contact with mentions that a game that they were at or how excited they are to get to the next game. Where the first couple years that wasn’t always the case.”
Hurley reflected back to the beginning of his tenure when trips to church always included a special prayer from his priest after tough games and showing at the Ryan Center. “Father Jared over at the Christ the King would pray for us,” Hurley said with a chuckle. “Now, before he dismisses us at Mass, he congratulates us.”