This one stings.
The Rhode Island Rams lost a heart breaker to the Providence Friars tonight, falling 50-49 at the Ryan Center in front of a sold-out crowd. It hurts because this one was an absolutely incredible game – an instant classic, if you will – but Rhody came up just short. URI had a chance to win it as they had the ball with 17 seconds left to play, but they couldn’t get a good look at the basket. E.C. Matthews heaved a 20-foot fall-away jumper that fell short of everything as the final buzzer sounded, and the Rams dropped to 6-4 on the season.
Saying the two teams hung with each other the whole way would be an understatement. It was an all-out battle in the state of Rhode Island tonight complete with fist pumps, players diving on the floor for loose balls, and even near fisticuffs between the two head coaches (more on that one in a minute). The Friars built their largest lead at 29-20 with two minutes to play in the first half, but the Rams closed things out with a 5-0 run to only trail by four at the break.
The second half saw the teams trade buckets for the first six minutes before a mini 6-0 run from URI tied things up at 37 apiece. The Friars then ran out to four point lead… but the Rams answered. PC then jumped on top by five but once again, the Rams answered. A three-pointer from Xavier Munford got Rhody to within one with four minutes to play and the Friars used a timeout. As the teams headed to the bench, Josh Fortune delivered a (real or perceived, depending on your perspective) cheap shot to E.C. Matthews, and Dan Hurley had some words for the PC guard. Ed Cooley didn’t take too kindly to that, and both head coaches had to be restrained as a double-technical was issued. Who said the rivalry was dead?
With the score still 47-46 and three minutes to play, the Rams were looking for a stop. And they appeared to get one as LaDonte Henton missed a three-pointer. But Rhody couldn’t collect the rebound as Tyler Harris went back up and in to give the Friars a three-point edge. A Gilvydas Biruta free throw and a Matthews layup tied things at 49 with 52 seconds to go and nail-biting basketball was underway. Once again, the Rams appeared to force a stop when Bryce Cotton missed a layup, but Kadeem Batts was there to grab the board and draw the foul. His one-of-two trip to the line proved to be the decider as PC came out on top for the fourth straight year.
It was a tough loss, but PC is quite good this season. As Dan Hurley said after the game, “Probably the only thing diappointing is the result. Tight game. Loved the way we fought.” Preach.
Hold your heads high, Ram fans. We’ll have much more on this one coming up tomorrow.