Mar. 14, 2017
URI is going dancing! Rams win the A-10 Championship for the first time since 1999
After five seasons as the Rams head coach, Dan Hurley has finally got over the hump. Rhode Island defeated number 2 seed VCU today (70-63), winning the A-10 Conference Title for the first time since 1999 and punching their ticket into the NCAA Tournament. This was the rubber match between these two teams, both defeating each other on their respected home courts in the previous match ups. URI led the entire game, led by scorers E.C Matthews and Jared Tarrell. Tarrell finished with a game leading 20 points and Matthews put up 19 of his own. After a knee injury ended his season last year, Matthews bounced back this year to lead URI to this point. It was clear Matthews was on early, shooting 4 for 5 from 3-point range, with three of them coming in Rhody's dominating first half. They shot the three ball well early on, helping the Rams build a big first half lead.
After the first half, URI led by 13 and had total control of the game. Although VCU outscored URI in the second half, the Rams from Kingston showed why they were ranked as the best defense in the A-10. URI produced 7 blocks, including 3 from last years A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Hassan Martin. In the final minute of the game, the Rams had a steal by Jared Tarrell followed by two free throws from Matthews to put the game on ice. Free throws have sometimes been they're achilles heel this season, costing the Rams big games including a home game against Dayton last month. Today, the Rams were 14 for 19 from the line, including 9-11 between Matthews and Tarrell combined. Matthews was named the tournament's most outstanding player after averaging 19.3 points and 5.7 rebonds.
This is the crowning achievement for head coach Dan Hurley. He took over URI's basketball program in 2012, and struggled early on. In his first season at the helm, Rhode Island finished with a 8-21 record. Now just five years later, Hurley has rebuilt and established the universities basketball program to heights it hasn't been to since 1999. “It all starts with the staff you put together of hopefully great teachers and great workers that could establish the standard. Then it turns and shifts toward recruiting players with not only talent but bringing in guys with character that are willing to work hard and set the tempo and pace everyday for how we want the program to operate,” Hurley told me in November. He has now officially established the standard he was talking about, becoming A-10 Conference champions. They will now turn their attention toward the NCAA Tournament, hoping to play the role as March Madness's cinderella team.