To fully embrace the season that is Feast Week, I was sent to Brooklyn to cover the Rhode Island Rams in the NIT Season Tip-Off, as the Rams sought their first November tournament title in the Dan Hurley Era.
Though Rhode Island did not come away with the championship, there was plenty to like over two days at Barclays Center:
Semifinal: Rhode Island 75 No. 20 Seton Hall 74
This was an entertaining game that came down to the final possession — something many would have thought unimaginable knowing how shorthanded the Rams were.
With senior guard E.C. Matthews out for a few more weeks and big man Cyril Langevine out both games, not many could see a path for Rhody to beat a top-20 team. Of course, no one told Jared Terrell that. Everyone knew Terrell is good, but he was herculean in the first game, scoring 32 points against Seton Hall, including the game winner:
With five seconds to go, Jared Terrell powers his way through traffic and finishes off the glass for the game-winning basket! Rhody knocks off #20 Seton Hall 75-74!!!!! #GoRhody pic.twitter.com/HoT2sYBYnP— Rhody MBB (@RhodyMBB) November 24, 2017
The first half against Seton Hall was anything but what was expected between two defensive-minded teams. The Rams and Pirates combined for 99 points and Rhody went into the locker room ahead 54-45.
Hurley, who played at Seton Hall, was looking to slow down the guards from his alma mater, rather than focusing on superstar center Angel Delgado, for the Pirates.
“If we could hold the combination of Powell, Rodriguez, and Carrington to 40 points, it does not matter how much Delgado scores down low,” he said.
In the second half, the defensive intensity picked up for both squads, with second-half totals of 21 for URI and 29 for SHU. The difference in the game was from the foul line, where the Rams shot 16-17, while Seton Hall was 9-16.
Championship Game Virginia 70 Rhode Island 55
The Rams were gassed against the Cavaliers. UVA had a cakewalk against Vanderbilt in its semifinal, which could explain its freshness down the stretch. The Rams were getting beat to every 50-50 ball late in the second half and Virginia controlled the pace throughout.
To make matters worse, Stanford Robinson fouled out at the 6:53 mark, and Terrell and Jeff Dowtin were both in foul trouble.
The Rams came down to Earth from the charity stripe, shooting 7-14. Terrell was keyed on the whole game, doubled every time he touched the ball. He finished with 11 with 4-11 shooting.
Rhode Island leaves Brooklyn 3-2 overall with a huge win out of conference. The neutral court win against a top-30 KenPom team will go a long way in March.
Next, the Rams will face Brown at home with major tests ahead against Providence and Alabama.