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An unlikely hero carries Rhode Island to second straight A10 Championship Game

Andre Berry picked a good day to have the game of his life

NCAA Basketball: Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON D.C. — It’s been 11 days since Rhode Island suffered arguably it’s worse loss of the Dan Hurley era. These eleven days seemed like an eternity for Rhode Island’s five seniors, who had to sit and stew over the 78-48 drubbing at the hands of St. Joseph’s on their senior night. Among those five seniors who had to walk off the floor at the Ryan Center for the final time with their heads hung in embarrassment was forward Andre Berry.

Feb. 27 had to be an especially frustrating day for Berry. He played just 14 minutes and posted a measly two points on 1-3 shooting. He has spent most of his career as a solid role player who often gets overshadowed by fellow seniors E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell.

But that all changed on Saturday.

With a shot at redemption against St. Joseph’s and a second straight trip to the Atlantic 10 Championship Game on the line, Berry came out and played the game of his life.

The first eight minutes of Saturday’s looked eerily similar to the February 27 matchup. St. Joe’s started off hitting every open look, while it seemed like nobody on URI could buy a bucket. That is everyone, except Berry.

Berry posted 14 points on 6-8 shooting in the first half while the rest of the team shot just 7-24 from the field. Berry’s monster first half was the primary reason why URI went into the locker room at halftime down only seven despite getting outplayed for much of the first half. He finished the game with 18 points and 9 rebounds, all of which proved to be crucial in pushing his team to a 90-87 semifinal victory over the same St. Joe’s team that ruined URI’s senior night less than two weeks ago.

Berry’s 6’8, 275 pound frame gave him an obvious size advantage against a smaller SJU frontcourt, and Coach Danny Hurley chose to try to exploit that mismatch. This was done largely through the use of a high-post in an attempt to draw St. Joe’s center Taylor Funk away from the baseline. Berry’s 50-pound size advantage over Funk allowed him to push his way into the paint and get high-percentage looks.

Berry’s career day did not go unnoticed by the thousands of URI fans who made the trip down to Washington D.C. for the tournament. He received a standing ovation when he checked out at the end of the first half, and the building almost erupted after he dove on the floor after a loose ball to keep a second-half possession alive.

Saturday was the type of game that Berry will tell his grandchildren about in 50 years. To quote the great philosopher Jon Rothstein, “College Basketball. Where the unexpected becomes the ordinary.” Berry’s performance on Saturday was definitely unexpected, and it was the reason that URI will have a chance to repeat as A10 Tournament champs on Sunday.