With guard E.C. Matthews going down with a knee injury during the first half of Rhode Island’s season-opening win over American Friday night, the fear was that the preseason all-conference selection would be lost for the season. Saturday afternoon those fears became reality, as the school announced that the junior guard will not play again this season.
“The injury I sustained on Friday night vs. American will unfortunately keep me from playing the rest of this season,” Matthews said in the release. “While the news has been a lot to process in such a short period of time, I know that it is a temporary setback and I will be back stronger and hungrier than ever before. Whether it is a rehab or physical therapy session, I will fight to get better everyday. This is a new challenge and I am up for it.
“I plan on using this setback as an opportunity to continue to grow as a student, a leader, and a man. I will be at every study hall, every practice, every film session, every game – no different than before.”
As a sophomore Matthews averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, earning second team all-Atlantic 10 honors. With the athletic Matthews out of the lineup head coach Dan Hurley will have to call on Jarvis Garrett, Jared Terrell and Four McGlynn for even more production on the perimeter. McGlynn, who arrived at URI as a grad student by way of Towson, scored 15 points against American and gives the Rams much-needed perimeter shooting.
Terrell may be the best equipped of the three to pick up where Matthews left off as a slasher, and 6-foot-4 freshman Christion Thompson will also factor into the Rhode Island backcourt rotation. While this is a major loss for Rhode Island, by no means does Matthews’ injury mean they can’t contend in the Atlantic 10 or reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999. There are adjustments to be made, but the talent and experience needed to do so is there.
Weekly Awards: No. 18 Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle shines in win over Wichita State
Northern Iowa became the first team in nearly two years to hand Wichita State a loss in Missouri Valley play, beating the Shockers 70-54 on Saturday afternoon in Cedar Falls. Seth Tuttle was the star for Ben Jacobson’s club, finishing with 29 points on 9-for-13 shooting as he continually beat slower Shocker big men off the dribble. Tuttle also scored 13 points in a win at Southern Illinois earlier in the week.
Tuttle is the best player on the Panthers, and if they end up winning the MVC regular season title, he’ll have a very strong argument for being the league’s Player of the Year over the likes of Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet. The question now is whether or not UNI is the favorite to win the league. Saturday was quite the statement, but UNI has already lost a game in the MVC and still has to go to Wichita this season. Beating Wichita State at home in the biggest game of the year in the league is one thing. Winning on the road with the league title on the line is another.
THE ALL ‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall: Seton Hall bounced back from three straight losses to beat Marquette and Xavier this week. Gibbs averaged 23.0 points and 9.0 assists in the two games.
Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith finished with 16 points, nine boards and four assists as Florida picked up a critical win over Arkansas on Saturday, which followed his game-winning poster in a win at Alabama during the week.
Jared Terrell, Rhode Island: The Rams landed two key wins in the Atlantic 10 race this week, and Terrell was the star. He had 18 at Fordham and followed that up with 17 as URI beat George Washington.
Ty Greene, USC-Upstate: Greene scored 61 points in a pair of road wins for the Spartans. He had 39 points at North Florida.
Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma: The Sooners moved above .500 in the Big 12 with a pair of wins this week, including a road win against Oklahoma State. Spangler had 13 points, nine boards and six assists against the Pokes.
Notables: Derrick Marks (Boise State), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville)
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Richmond Spiders
Richmond landed a massive win over the weekend, as they went into the Siegel Center and knocked off their arch rival, VCU, 64-55. Kendall Anthony had 22 points in the win, which followed a 22-point win over Duquesne. The Spiders are not yet in the mix for an at-large berth, but the two wins this week did move them into a tie with four other teams with three losses in A-10 play, just two games behind VCU.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
Ohio State: The Buckeyes followed up a win over Indiana last weekend by blowing out Maryland at home on Thursday night. Thad Matta’s club looks like they may be the second-best team in the Big Ten right now.
UCLA: Is UCLA’s season finally on the right track? The Bruins swept the Mountain schools at home this weekend, blowing out Utah and knocking off Colorado.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are now 6-3 in the Big Ten thanks to wins over Indiana and at Northwestern.
Texas A&M: The Aggies have now won six straight games in the SEC after beating both Auburn and Vanderbilt this week. A&M is all alone in second place in the conference, two games behind Kentucky.
Louisville: The Cardinals won a pair of games this week, knocking off Boston College on the road and following that up with a come-from-behind, overtime win overtime win against North Carolina. The Cards erased an 18-point second half deficit.
Notables: SMU, Louisiana Tech
Rhode Island upsets No. 21 Nebraska, 66-62, in overtime
SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Rhode Island upset No. 21 Nebraska, 66-62, in overtime on Saturday night in front of a sold-out, on campus crowd at the Ryan Center in South Kingstown.
Jared Terrell began overtime with an open three from E.C. Matthews. A poor shooting night as a team from behind the arc (3-for-19) didn’t shake Terrell’s confidence to take a step-back baseline three on the next possession — following two Shavon Shields free throws — to give Rhode Island a two-possession lead at 59-55, marking the first time either team held a lead larger than two since 7:20 left in the second half.
The last time Rhode Island had knocked off a ranked opponent was Dec. 2, 1998 when the Rams defeated No. 25 Utah. That team included Lamar Odom. Almost a full sixteen years later, students on campus are more prone to associate Odom in his supporting role with the Kardashian clan than with their basketball program.
“It was a great night for a fans,” Hurley said in the post-game press conference. “It was a night our fans were waiting for for a long time. We’ve got a great group of young guys here [with] senior leaders. This isn’t going to be our last moment like this. This is a big step forward for us in terms of our confidence and knowing what we’re capable of doing, finishing a game like that against that quality of an opposition. It was an enormous moment for our program.”
There had been smoke in South Kingstown for quite some time now ever since the arrival of Hurley in 2012. He came in having rebuilt Wagner with a 20-win turnaround in just two seasons. He also saw early success on the recruiting trail with his first recruiting class consisting of Matthews and Hassan Martin, both rated in the Rivals150. The next class was headlined by the late addition of Terrell. Matthews shared A10 Rookie of the Year honors last season, a year in which the Rams endure a laundry list of close calls with 11 of 18 losses decided by single digits.
But now, after an upset win over a ranked opponent, there is fire in this upstart Rhode Island program.
Saturday night served as the first tangible evidence that Rhode Island is ready to make the jump to the top of the Atlantic 10 Conference standings aside the likes of VCU, Dayton, George Washington and UMass. This was Rhode Island’s first competitive contest after double-digit wins over Pace and UMass Lowell. The former is a Division II school out of New York, and the latter is a Division I newbie, a ex-conference rival of Pace just two years ago.
The Rams have one of the conference’s top guards in Matthews, who scored 22 of 26 after halftime, getting to the line 14 times, sinking 11 of his attempts. He had struggled to get open looks, but remained steadfast in the second half, something that may not have happened a season ago as a freshman.
“I say my demeanor,” Matthews said when asked what changed in the second half. “Last year, I’d probably hang my head. But I have a great coach and great teammates. They believed in me and told me to stay aggressive.”
That confidence isn’t limited to the star shooting guard. You could see Terrell’s confidence grow as the game wore on, even when he missed 2-of-4 free throws down the stretch, that didn’t deter him from stroking two 3-pointers that sparked the overtime victory.
Terrell was relentless against Nebraska’s Terran Pettway. The all-Big Ten wing did finish with 15 points, but it was off 5-of-18 shooting with three of those buckets coming in transition and another being an uncontested dunk. Terrell provided him little space for Pettway to operate and closely contested every jump shot.
That toughness was also found on the glass where the Rams held a 49-36 advantage, holding Nebraska to seven offensive rebounds on the night compared to Rhody’s 16.
“I think Rhode Island is a pretty good team,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles added. “I haven’t seen the whole A10 so I can speak to that, but Coach Hurley has a physical group.”
For the Rams, they’ll have little time to bask in Saturday night’s win, which included the first court storming of the college basketball season. Rhode Island travels to Florida for the Orlando Classic, where it is pitted against No. 5 Kansas in the quarterfinals.
“I thought they canceled that tournament. I thought we we’re getting Thanksgiving off,” Hurley joked.
“Those guys are a blue blood program, but we’re going to enjoy this tonight. Everyone should. It was magical night here, this did a lot for our brand. We have a lot of work to do. We have a huge, huge tournament against one of the best teams in the country. They probably aren’t in a great mood after their game against Kentucky, but our preparation is going to be good. We’re going to practice the right way and we’re going to have a game plan to be in the mix with them.”
The Rams will have their work cut out for them in Orlando, but Saturday’s win was another step in the right direction. Rhody is rising, maybe sooner than expected.
“First year was a huge task,” Hurley said. “Last year, you start to see it coming together with E.C. and Hassan coming into the mix; these dynamic young players. You start to be more confident and bring in the next class of kids with Jared and Jarvis [Garrett] and Earl [Watson].
“We going to go through ups and downs and growing pains this season. We’re a young, young team relative to college basketball. So they’re will be bumps in the road, but I know these young guys were building this thing with, this core group here, how can you not know what’s coming?”