The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team had their promising season come to a close on Sunday night, the 17th anniversary of their Elite Eight loss to Stanford, against the Cardinal once again, 74-65.
The defeat represented a bittersweet way for their season to end as they finished with their most wins in the Dan Hurley era, and most wins since Jim Barron was in charge of the program. Their final record was a remarkable 23-10, with 14 wins in 16 tries at home. The win total represents a nine win increase from last season, and a 15 win increase from the 2012-2013 season, which was Dan Hurley’s first season on the bench.
In addition to those records, Rhode Island also finished tied for second in the Atlantic 10 conference with a 13-5 record, just one game out of first place behind Atlantic 10 regular season champions Davidson College. Â Even more impressive than their second-place finish is the fact that they were one missed 30pointer, from Davidson’s Jack Gibbs, away from taking the Atlantic 10 regular season crown altogether.
Furthermore there were some real bright spots for the Rams roster, specifically the poise showed by freshmen Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett. Terrell started all but one game in his freshman campaign for URI, averaging nine points, two rebounds and 1.4 steals over the course of the year. However, he was also a menacing defender, routinely guarding the best opposing scorers. The four-star recruit out of Weymouth, Massachusetts, scored in double-figures in 14 of their 33 games, including a season-high 23 points against Saint Louis on Feb. 14.
Garrett on the other hand does not have big-time stats that show the impact he had on the Rams this season. Garrett averaged just six points, two rebounds and three assists this season, but eventually was placed in the starting lineup towards the middle of the season by Hurley, allowing sophomore E.C. Matthews to play off the ball more. Another added bonus of his insertion into the starting lineup was that he protects the ball, averaging just one turnover per game and is one of Rhode Island’s better free throw shooters at 67 percent.
Also deserving mention was the leadership of senior T.J. Buchanan. He did not complain about playing time and was a key piece in developing the freshmen and keeping the team focused. Buchanan surpassed expectations and became one of the best late-game free throw shooters (fifth overall) on the team. Similarly he averaged six points, three rebounds and three assists, along with tenacity, grit and superb defense.
In addition to their overall win and loss record and player performances, the team also experienced some incredible highs and some pretty disappointing lows. One of the highest moments of the season came early on with the Rams win against then No. 21-ranked Nebraska, and everyone storming the court. Another positive was beating George Washington, advancing their tournament hopes and eventually leading to a first-place tie in the Atlantic 10 standings with just weeks to go.
Conversely the lows were disappointing and came in bunches toward the end of the season. The most difficult one for most fans to swallow is the loss to Davidson at home that all but sealed the team’s fate as an NIT participant. Another bad defeat was a last-second heartbreaker to Saint Joseph’s, on a night where the Rams could have taken first place outright in the Atlantic 10. Also worth noting were the dreadful last-second losses to Virginia Commonwealth University earlier in the year when URI led most of the way, and the University of Massachusetts’ comeback victory on the Rams.
Overall, though, the season was a rousing success and with young players maturing, recruits and transfers coming in (like Kuran Iverson and Leroy Butts) and stability in the program. Next season this team will be a favorite in the Atlantic 10 and, with nearly everyone returning, may just be dancing next year.