The University of Dayton (19-5, 10-2 A-10) visited The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team for an epic conference battle (16-8, 8-4 A-10) on Friday night and Rhode Island came up just short on the last possession, losing 75-74.

In the first half, the Rams never trailed the Flyers and at one point had their largest lead of the game, 11 points with just under four minutes to go. The first half was all URI as it held the Flyers to eight of 29 shooting at 27.6 percent from the field, and led 36-30 going into halftime. Rhode Island senior forward Kuran Iverson had an incredible first-half performance, leading the way with 13 points while shooting an uncommon three of three from 3-point range, along with four rebounds and one block. The Rams shot well in the opening 20 minutes, going 14-of-27 from the field at nearly a 52 percent clip and 4-of-10 from behind the arc for 40 percent. Kendall Pollard kept the Flyers in the game with 10 first-half points.

In the second half, the tides turned in Dayton’s favor as they came out of the visitors’ locker room motivated to take their first lead of the game, going on a 7-0 run to take the lead 37-36 within the first three minutes. Head coach Dan Hurley knew that his team was not going to be able to hold one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 conference to ice cold shooting for long.

“A team that is that good, you’re not going to hold them below 30 percent for the game,” Hurley said. “They started fast in the second half they were shooting like 80 percent.”

The rest of the second half was back and forth between the two A-10 foes with the lead changing on 10 separate occasions. Following a tough first half where he only scored two points on 1-4 shooting, Rhode Island redshirt junior guard E.C. Matthews scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to keep the Rams in a favorable position. Senior forward Hassan Martin had 15 points along with three blocks and five rebounds and junior guard Jared Terrell also added 15 points and two steals. However, Dayton’s bench scoring and their ability to get to and execute at the free throw line really helped them break past URI’’s defensive pressure in the second half. The Flyers bench outscored the Rams bench in the game 24-3, as the only points URI scored off the bench were from sophomore forward Nikola Akele, who converted a three-point-play in the first half.

Dayton out shot Rhode Island from the free throw line, going 20 of 29 for 72.4 percent compared to Rhode Island’s 21-of-32 for 65.6 percent while missing some crucial free throws down the stretch. With 24 seconds left in the game, the Rams had a semi-comfortable 73-69 lead after Iverson hit two free throws for his team-leading 20th point of the contest. Directly following Iverson’s free throws, Dayton’s Xeyrius Williams hit an uncontested corner 3-pointer to bring the Flyers within one at 73-72.  

Matthews was fouled while racing to the Dayton hoop, and converted on one-of-two free throws putting the Rams up 74-72. Dayton again immediately responded after the free throws, as Williams hit a second 3-pointer from virtually the same position, this time with Iverson’s hand in his face to take back the lead at 75-74 with seven seconds left in regulation. Rhode Island had one last opportunity to win the game as they got ready to inbound the ball under Dayton’s basket with 1.4 seconds to left on the clock. The pass was overthrown and deflected out of bounds for the Rams 11th turnover, ending the game in heartbreaking fashion, 75-74. A frustrated Hurley spoke about the team’s feelings following the tough conference game defeat on their home floor, referencing other similar tough losses in recent years.

“We didn’t finish the game,” Hurley said. “It was such an important game for us on so many levels. I think we got a little bit ahead of ourselves, and we just didn’t finish. We were up four there with one stop away from ending it. Obviously the second one (Williams 3-pointer) from the left corner that has not been a good left corner to us, Jack Gibbs (Davidson) a couple years ago, Darrell Davis (Dayton) last year, Williams this year. Tough one, but like we told the guys this one hurts, kills really but for us we are obviously a high quality team that couldn’t just close out a game that we had won against a very high level opponent.”

Rhode Island has six games left on their schedule with their next game being against Fordham University this Wednesday at The Ryan Center at 7 p.m.

“Now we have got six opportunities left here to continue to win games and continue to make a case for the things we want to accomplish,” Hurley said. “I am not sure if anyone who tuned into that game tonight didn’t feel like those were two tournament teams playing.”