The Rhode Island Rams used a big second half run to put away the North Carolina A&T Aggies tonight en route to a 72-59 win. Trailing by one at 38-37 six minutes into the second half, Rhody used a 16-0 to open up a 15 point lead and never looked back. The win moves URI to 2-1 on the season and 2-0 at home, with a big trip to Arizona looming in a few days.
The first half of tonight’s game was a little nerve-racking to say the least. The Rams and Aggies traded buckets through the first twenty minutes, with Rhody continuing to struggle with both defense and turnovers. Rhode Island allowed NC A&T to shoot 50 percent from the field in the half while turning the ball over 10 times in the frame. URI’s sloppy play allowed the Aggies to take a 33-32 lead into the locker room, and concerns were abound as to how good the Rams really are.
If the second half was any indication, the answer is “quite good”. Keyed by some outstanding play from E.C. Matthews, the Rams dominated the final 20 minutes, opening up a lead and holding it the rest of the way for what turned out to be a very convincing win. The game seemed to turn on a questionable technical foul call on NC A&T’s Jerome Simmons. With 14:08 to play in the second half, Xavier Munford drove the lane and got hit hard going up for a layup. Simmons was charged with the foul, and may have said something to Munford while he was crumpled in a heap under the basket. Replays trying to decipher exactly what Simmons did were inconclusive, but the Rams capitalized. Matthews hit both of the technical free throws, and Munford added a pair from the personal foul as part of a four-point swing that changed the game. URI’s ensuing run contained four layups, a dunk, and two additional free throws as Rhody attacked the rim with a vengeance.
Besides the game-changing offensive explosion, the story of the game was Matthews. The freshman guard scored a game-high 18 points on 6-11 shooting, adding six rebounds and four assists to his stat sheet. For those clamoring for Matthews to get the start at point guard, here’s a stat for you: one turnover in 22 minutes. This kid is really something special to watch – starter or not. Expect to see his face a lot more as the season goes on.
If the second half was any indication, things are starting to come together for URI. It couldn’t come at a better time, as URI has a potential date with the Arizona Wildcats coming up Tuesday night. But first things first – we’ll have a full analysis of tonight’s game coming up tomorrow.