The Providence College Friars took down the University of Rhode Island Rams 63-60 in the annual in-state rivalry matchup at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Saturday.
The Rams head coach Dan Hurley is in his fifth year at the helm of the program, but he has yet to beat Ed Cooley and his Friars.
Unranked Providence’s win over then No. 21 Rhode Island is not a true upset. By definition it would be, but in a rivalry game as historic as Providence vs. Rhode Island, anything could happen.
Last year, the Friars came into to Kingston with the No. 23 next to their name to play a Rhode Island squad who had just lost E.C. Matthews less than a month before. Even with Rhode Island down their best player, it took a Ben Bentil tip-in at the buzzer to give Providence the victory.
When the Rams and Friars matchup, the rankings go out the window. Forget about who is coming into the game on a hot streak. Ignore who is playing well and who is not. Providence and Rhode Island fans disagree on a lot, but one thing should be agreed upon: the rivalry between the Rams and Friars is a hidden jewel in the world of college basketball.
Rhode Island residents and college basketball fans in general live for a rivalry like Providence vs. Rhode Island. The two head coaches on the other hand do not see it as a huge deal. Cooley said before last year’s matchup that PC vs. URI is, “A game to me. Not a rivalry.” Hurley has similar opinions. “The Providence game somehow becomes more than a game,” Hurley said. “It becomes something else besides a game.”
The hype around the 2016 edition of this matchup was the biggest it has been in decades. Rhode Island was coming off of a tough road loss to Valparaiso last Tuesday and Providence was riding a win over New Hampshire. Who would win bragging rights for at least the next year?
The first half was neck-and-neck between the two programs. Rhode Island opened up the game on a 5-0 run just for Providence to go on a 10-5 run to tie the score at 10. This would be the story of most of the first half. The Rams would take a lead and the Friars would storm back to cut the deficit.
However, Rhody had a small break away at the end of the first half that put them up six going into the break. With 1:54 left in the first half, the Rams held a 30-29 lead over Providence after PC star forward Rodney Bullock hit two free throws from the charity stripe. URI scored five unanswered points after Matthews went a perfect 2-of-2 from the free throw line and Jared Terrell drained a three ball with just a tick over a minute remaining. Rhode Island carried a 35-29 lead into halftime.
The second half started with Providence getting hot from the floor. After a Bullock 3-pointer just under three minutes into the half, the Friars had come within one point to make the game 39-38. Rhody would then go on their best defensive run of the game, holding PC to just one point over the next five minutes to create a 47-40 lead in that span. With 12:15 left to go, the Rams were looking to put the game away.
Rhode Island would slowly begin to deflate their chances in the last 12 minutes. Providence would go on a 7-0 that would tie the game at 47 with 8:56 to go. From there, both teams exchanged baskets.
The Friars held a 59-55 lead with just under 30 seconds remaining. There was a last minute push from URI, though, as Terrell, who along with Hassan Martin had a team-high 14 points, drove to the lane and got the bucket and a foul to make the game 59-58. With 16 seconds left, URI picked up a full court press, and seemed to double-team whoever had the ball in the Providence backcourt. This proved to be costly, however, as it left Bullock wide open deep in Rhode Island territory. He put the icing on the cake with a two-hand jam to give Providence a 61-58 lead.
With the score at 63-60, the Rams would have a chance to tie the game up with a 3-pointer from Matthews. The struggling guard, who scored nine points on 3-of-13 shooting, missed the crucial shot. Providence would take its seventh straight victory over Rhode Island.
“We are going to learn from this,” Hurley said following the loss. “We are going to get back to thinking about accomplishing the goals that are set out for this team. We expect to have a long and great season.”
Hurley says that the team’s goals are to win the Atlantic 10 Conference and make a run to the NCAA tournament. Now that the PC game is over, he is looking forward to getting back on track and chasing those goals with the team.