If you were growing a little concerned about the Rhode Island Rams last night – say, around halftime – you were not alone. Rhody was down one at the break as they struggled with turnovers and poor defense, but all was forgotten by the end of regulation. URI turned in an absolute monster second half, coming from behind to beat the North Carolina A&T Aggies 72-59 at the Ryan Center. The win gives the Rams some momentum as they head into the NIT Season Tip-Off in Tucson, Arizona. First, let’s dig a little deeper into last night’s win.
If you’re looking for positives from yesterday, it all starts with E.C. Matthews. The freshman played such an outstanding all-around game that his stats leap off the page with just cursory look at the box score. In just 22 minutes of play, E.C. racked up a game-high 18 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists. He led the team in all three of those categories while playing a key role in Rhody’s 16-0 second half run. It begs the question… should Matthews be in the starting lineup? Folks are certainly getting anxious for it, but Dan Hurley made it clear in his post-game comments.
Hurley on Matthews — 'Before you can lean on a player real, real heavy, they have to get comfortable. You can't just plug and play a guy.'
— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) November 16, 2013
Makes sense. Still, if E.C. continues to turn in performances like last night, he’s going to crack the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Aside from the great individual performance from the freshman guard, Rhode Island also posted some great team numbers last night. They out-rebounded the Aggies 37-27 and held a 19-6 advantage in second-chance points. The Rams also dominated inside, especially in the second half. They racked up 40 points in the paint for the game to just 24 for NC A&T. While the first half was a bit concerning, URI played some of their best basketball of the season in the final 20 minutes last night. If they can turn in that kind of performance over a full 40 minutes, they’ll be just fine against any team on their schedule.
And that schedule is about to get tough. Rhode Island will face off against the number 1 Division-II team in the country Monday night when they take on the Metro State Roadrunners. Tip is set for 9:00 p.m. EST as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off in Tucson, Arizona. A Rhody win combined with a ‘Zona victory over Fairleigh Dickinson sets up a date with the Wildcats Tuesday night. We’ll have much more on those games coming up this week.