Alec Peters had 27 points, nine boards and a pair of blocks, including on a potential game-tying three, as Valparaiso picked up yet another impressive win, knocking off No. 21 Rhode Island, 65-62.
Peters, who entered the game averaging better than 25 points on the season, is one of the best players in the country, not just at the mid-major level, and what makes this result so significant is that it means the Crusaders are in a really good spot to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Granted, there is a ton of basketball left to be played.
But as of today, Valpo has wins over URI, BYU and Alabama. The Rams figure to contend for the Atlantic 10 title, the Cougars look like a potential tournament team and Alabama plays in the SEC, which means that it should at least be a top 100 win come Selection Sunday. Their only loss? On the road against an Oregon team that you have to figure will end up back in the mix at the top of the Pac-12 come February.
And they still get a chance to swing up at Kentucky in Rupp Arena next week.
I’m not saying that this team is a lock to get an at-large bid, not by any stretch.
But if they beat who they’re supposed to beat, if they take care of business in the Horizon League and falter in their conference tournament, they should find themselves in a really good spot to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
For a team in a mid-major league, that’s really all you can ask.
Rhode Island had its first scare of the season.
The 21st-ranked Rams narrowly defeated Brown, 79-72, on Wednesday evening in a game in which Rhode Island had to sweat until the final moments.
Brown pulled to within five with under 4 minutes to play before Rhode Island answered with a bucket from E.C. Matthews followed by a Jared Terrell steal and another Matthews layup to gain nine points worth of separation and eventually a victory.
The game being tight is a bit perplexing given the Rams’ stats are pretty solid for the night. They shot 57.7 percent from the field – including 37.5 percent from 3-point range – but they really hurt themselves on the line, going 13 of 22 from the charity stripe. They also didn’t control the boards quite like they have this season with just seven offensive boards while surrendering 10 to Brown.
Jared Terrell was 7 of 11 from the floor to finish with a team-high 18 points while Matthews had 17 and Hassan Martin 12 courtesy of 6 of 7 shooting. Steven Spieth had 21 points for Brown.
Rhode Island is an interesting case study this year as they’re the consensus A-10 pick despite the fact they’re a team that went 17-15 last year and 9-9 in the league. What’s given them the edge, in most eyes, is Matthews, who missed all of last year with an ACL injury.
He certainly looks as though he’s fully recovered, scoring at least 17 points in all three of the Rams’ games this season and shooting 71.8 percent (!!!) from the floor. So, yeah, he’s pretty good and could be the difference in a conference race.
Still, there’s likely some kinks that need to be worked out as Matthews reintroduces himself to the rest of the Rams, and a night like Wednesday probably shouldn’t be too alarming. But it is a reminder that while Rhode Island is extremely talented, the A-10 is probably going to be hotly contested between the Rams, Dayton and VCU.
Rhode Island’s 71-65 loss at Old Dominion Tuesday night proved to be a costly defeat, as they lost their best player for the foreseeable future due to injury.
Junior forward Hassan Martin, who played in just 11 minutes Tuesday night as a result of injuring his left ankle in the first half, has been declared out indefinitely according to Bill Koch of the Providence Journal. The Rams won’t play again until December 30 against Brown in their final non-conference game before the start of Atlantic 10 play.
URI opens up conference play with home games against Saint Louis (January 2) and Richmond (January 5), and according to Koch’s report it’s likely that Martin will at the very least miss the games against Brown and SLU.
Martin’s currently averaging a team-best 11.9 points per game while also contributing 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per contest. He’s one of the nation’s best defenders, so losing Martin is a serious blow for Dan Hurley’s Rams to absorb. How long Martin remains sidelined as a result of the injury remains to be seen.
URI is already playing without junior guard E.C. Matthews, who suffered a torn ACL in the team’s season opener against American.
Saturday night in-state rivals No. 23 Providence and Rhode Island met in Kingston, and as many expected the game did not disappoint. The Friars got off to a quick start only to see the Rams respond with a 20-4 run, and from that point onward the two Ocean State teams traded punches throughout in a game that was decided as time expired by Providence forward Ben Bentil.
Following a Jared Terrell jumper with 6.2 seconds remaining Providence point guard raced up the court, releasing a shot attempt with enough time to allow Bentil to tip in the miss just before time expired. The game-winner capped a 23-point, eight-rebound night for Bentil, who to this point in the season has not only been one of the Big East’s most improved players but one of the most improved players in the country as a whole.
Terrell led four Rams in double figures with 19 points.
Video credit: ESPN
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.
Rhode Island’s season-opening win over American, a game in which they rebounded from a slow start to win 65-42, may have come at a significant cost for a team expected to contend in the Atlantic 10.
Junior guard E.C. Matthews left the game in the first half with a knee injury, going down on a drive to the basket. Matthews left the Ryan Center for further examination and according to the school more will be learned when he undergoes more tests on Saturday. It goes without saying that losing one of the conference’s top players would be a major hit for Dan Hurley’s team to absorb, especially at this point in the season.
Matthews was later taken to the locker room by URI trainer Mike Monteiro and team physician Ramin Tabaddor and did not return. He will undergo a full battery of tests on his knee at some point on Saturday. The Rams expect to update his status later this weekend.
“He’s one of the greatest kids you’ll ever coach,” Hurley said. “He stands for all the right things. He’s got a great family. He’s been a pillar of this thing here. No one can match his work ethic or dedication.”
The Rams pulled away thanks to a balanced offensive effort led by guard Four McGlynn (15 points) and Jared Terrell (14), and a defense that forced 17 American turnovers that they converted into 25 points. In addition to the turnovers Rhode Island limited the Eagles to 34.8 percent shooting from the field, with Jesse Reed being held to just seven points on the night.
With Matthews unavailable McGlynn played 25 minutes off the bench and freshman Christion Thompson played 18. Should Matthews be sidelined for an extended period of time, those are the two players (in addition to starters Terrell and Jarvis Garrett) who would absorb those minutes moving forward.