Photo by Autumn Walter |CIGAR|
WASHINGTON D.C. – Bad news, the University of Rhode Island fell in the Atlantic 10 Championship game to the Davidson Wildcats, 58-57 on Sunday afternoon. Good news, the Rams will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament on Sunday night.
The Wildcats had a 45-39 lead with 14:04 left to go in the second half. From that point, Davidson would go 12:50 without a field goal in the second half. Over that stretch Rhode Island outscored the Wildcats 18-11 on route to taking a one-point lead with 1:49 left to play in the second half.
Davidson would halt their scoring dry spell on a Kellan Grady baseline floater with 1:14 left to go. The bucket would put the Wildcats up 58-57, the eventual final score. Grady’s bucket was the only field goal the Wildcats had in the 14:04 of the game.
Jeff Dowtin’s contested three-point attempt went wide right just before time expired to secure the victory for Davidson.
Dowtin was named to the all-tournament team. The sophomore only had nine points in the championship game, but his 18-point performance against VCU in the quarterfinals and 16 point, 10-assist performance in the semifinals against St. Joseph’s did not go unnoticed.
“Credit Davidson,” Rams head coach Dan Hurley said following the game. “They are a classy program. Great coach. Love those players. Couldn’t have more respect for the way they play, the way they carry themselves. If you are going to lose to anyone in this league, I guess Davidson, or Bonnies [St. Bonaventure]. We’ve been the three best teams in the league. But a tough loss.”
The Rams, the No. 1 seed and regular season champs, and the Wildcats, the No. 3 seed, exchanged blows similar to that of a heavy weight fight for the entirety of the first half. The second half was a tail of poor offensive rhythms for both teams and two late fouls that sent Davidson to free throw line.
Senior E.C. Matthews led Rhode Island. Matthews finished the game with a game-high 20 points on 7-16 shooting with eight rebounds. Matthews was the only Ram in double figures on the afternoon.
“It’s kind of hard to think about that right now but I’m proud of my guys,” Matthews said about moving on from the loss and preparing to the NCAA tournament. “Coach is proud of us. We’ve still got games to play and that’s the good part.”
With the loss Rhode Island now eyes the Selection Show to the NCAA tournament. The Rams will get their first at-large bid since 1998.
Hurley was emotional after the game explaining the importance of his group and the change of culture surrounding his program.
“Amazing,” Hurley said fighting back tears. “Amazing guys. Couldn’t be prouder. Family, deep relationships that’s why it hurts so bad. The deep relationships you build with the fans, and the place. The way that Keaney [referring to the fanbase] showed up here it’s just different. When you start from the bottom and you get these special kids and everything grows, that hurts. I’m sure there’s a lot of pride but it’s hard.”
For Davidson, they now get the automatic qualifier to the tournament and give the A-10 a better chance of being a three-bid conference with the potential of St. Bonaventure being awarded an at-large bid as well