Having gone 2-8 in its last ten games prior to the NCAA tournament, the question for Midwest region 10-seed Oklahoma was whether or not the Sooners would be able to turn things around. But in a game that was tight throughout Oklahoma’s perimeter shooting proved costly, as the Sooners shot just 4-for-20 from deep, as No. 7 seed Rhode Island picked up the 83-78 victory in overtime.
Rhode Island didn’t shoot the best percentage from deep, making just 11 of its 29 attempts, but they outscored the Sooners by 21 points in that area. Add in some key threes made during the second half and overtime by the likes of E.C. Matthews, Jared Terrell and Fatts Russell, and the Rams have managed yet another first for the program.
Dan Hurley’s team has now won an NCAA tournament game in consecutive years, the first time in school history that the feat has been accomplished.
URI got the job done with a balanced offensive effort, with Matthews leading four double-digit scorers with 16 points. While the “Batman and Batman” tandem of Matthews and Terrell combined to score 29 points, so did reserves Russell and Cyril Langevine. Langevine added a team-high ten rebounds, and the 51.3 percent foul shooter also made some critical free throws in overtime to help Rhode Island extend its lead.
Trae Young led the way for Oklahoma with a game-high 28 points, but as was the case throughout conference play he did not have enough scoring help. Jamuni McNeace added 14 points and ten rebounds, but he was the only other double-digit scorer for the Sooners. While Young’s outstanding statistical output won’t be overlooked, the 2017-18 season for Oklahoma was ultimately shaped by the lack of consistency from its supporting cast.
That hasn’t been an issue for Rhode Island, and as a result the Atlantic 10 regular season champions are off to the second round.
Whether it’s Duke or Iona on Saturday, Rhode Island will have to clean things up offensively. The Rams shot just 39.0 percent from the field, and its 13-for-20 day at the foul line didn’t help matters either. Should the opposition turn out to be 2-seed Duke the perimeter shooting would be a concern, especially considering the fact that the Blue Devils have been much improved defensively since fully committing to an active 2-3 zone.
And zone offense was something that URI struggled with during the latter portion of the season, most notably getting blown out by Saint Joseph’s on Senior Night.
That all being said Dan Hurley’s team isn’t one to back down from a challenge, which should come as no surprise given how successful this group has been over the last two seasons. Many wondered if the time off would help Trae Young and his Oklahoma teammates, who all looked gassed by the end of the regular season.
Ultimately it didn’t matter, as Rhode Island made the plays that needed to be made in overtime.