Whew. The Rhode Island Rams survived a scare tonight against the Division-II Metro State Roadrunners before eking out a 66-63 win in Tucson. Rhody was down by 10 at the half before storming back to lead by as many as six. But the Roadrunners played some pesky basketball the rest of the way, and URI definitely earned this one with several big plays down the stretch. One thing is for sure – Metro State came as advertised. They’re a D-II team in name only, and can probably hang with a fair share of Division-I squads. The Rams earned this one, and tomorrow night they’ll face the winner of the upcoming Fairleigh Dickinson – Arizona game as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
Much like the NC A&T game, this one was a tale of two halves. Rhode Island’s first twenty minutes were marred by poor defense and turnovers once again. URI coughed the ball up 12 times in the first frame, while allowing the Roadrunners to shoot 52 percent (42 percent from three). Metro State was up by as much as 13 as they never trailed in the first half.
Things looked bleak for the Rams, but they adjusted. Dan Hurley elected to go small coming out of the locker room, putting Biggie Minnis and E.C. Matthews on the floor to start the second half. It worked. Rhody opened the frame with a 21-5 run thanks to a tighter defense, a quicker offense, and some clutch three-point shooting. URI shot it at a 47 percent clip for the game, using their outside shooting to stretch the Metro State defense a bit.
The Roadrunners didn’t give in, as they battled back to tie the game with 2:46 remaining. But an offensive put-back from Gilvydas Biruta, a few defensive stops, and some clutch free throws from Matthews and Xavier Munford sealed the nail-biting win for Rhode Island.
Barring a huge upset, the Rams will face the Arizona Wildcats tomorrow evening. If you want an early look at both ‘Zona and FDU, flip over to ESPNU at 11:00 p.m. EST tonight to catch that game. In the meantime, we’ll have much, much more coming up tomorrow.