It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to get a win. The Rhode Island Rams held off a pesky UMass Lowell squad 79-68 this afternoon at the Ryan Center. Rhody led most of the game, but they had trouble putting the River Hawks away as this one wasn’t decided until the final minutes. But in the end, it goes down as another win for URI as they improve to 4-2 on the season, with UMass Lowell dropping to 0-5.
Once again, the Rams got off to a sluggish start in this one, as they scored just two points in the first six minutes of the first half. But unlike previous games, the drought didn’t last for the full 20 minutes. You can thank E.C. Matthews for that one. The freshman guard was key in a big 16-0 run for Rhode Island as they turned a 13-9 deficit into a 25-13 lead. E.C. buried a three, grabbed two boards and picked up an assist in that time frame to help Rhody open up a lead that they would never relinquish. Matthews tallied 12 points overall in the first half on 4-6 shooting, 2-3 from beyond the arc as URI went into the locker room up 31-23.
But the River Hawks wouldn’t go away. They were down by as little as five early on in the second half and things didn’t look like they were going to be easy for Rhody. But another mini 13-6 Rhode Island run later on in the frame opened up a 15 point lead and the Rams were in a position to coast. UMass Lowell continued to battle until the final buzzer, however, and URI had to hit some clutch free throws down the stretch to come away with the 11 point victory.
Xavier Munford led the way for the Rams with 16 points, although he shot just 4-12 from the field and 0-3 from long range. Fortunately, he was able to take care of business from the charity stripe, burying 8-12 freebies to move into double-digits in the scoring column. The senior guard also added six rebounds and six assists. Matthews finished with 15 points on 5-8 shooting while grabbing five boards of his own. But the most impressive stat for E.C. was this one: three assists, zero turnovers in 29 minutes. He came up big for Rhody once again, and it seems that it’s only a matter of time before he works his way into the starting lineup.
Ideally, the Rams would have liked to win this game by a lot more, giving UMass Lowell’s struggles so far this season. But it’s nice to be 4-2 with things still a work in progress on both ends of the floor. We’ll have a closer at this one coming up tomorrow.