URI Set for 1st NCAA Tournament Appearance in 18 Years

Friday, March 17, 2017
Joe Calabro, GoLocalProv Sports Team

E.C. Matthews leads URI into first NCAA Tournament game in 18 years
The URI Rams will play their first NCAA Tournament game since 1999 on Friday afternoon in Sacramento. 

“It means a lot to me, especially my last year here, going out as a warrior hasn't been done in almost two decades, and not only to get to the tournament but to win the Atlantic 10 Championship. It is something I will never forget and I'm excited to start this tournament,” said Rams forward Hassan Martin in his press conference on Thursday. 

URI head coach Dan Hurley added, “...so excited to be out here. Excited for our great fans and our athletic director, Thorr Bjorn and so much had to go right to get back here after an 18-year absence, but we're excited to be here.”

The Rams enter the tournament as an 11 seed and will face sixth seeded Creighton out of the Big East Conference in the first round. 

“They're like the Golden State Warriors with how they push the ball and how they shoot threes, the best offensive team we will have play played this year without question," said Hurley. 

Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. in Sacramento, California. 

URI Last Time Out 

The Rams are one of the hottest teams in the country entering Friday’s game. URI has won eight straight games with their last win giving them the A-10 Championship over VCU. 

“Once we got healthy late the best thing we had going for us was the "edge." I think we're one of the hardest-playing teams in the country. We really get after people. We try to make people uncomfortable.

What we were able to add to that over the weekend in Pittsburgh was shot making and offensive confidence. If we're an elite defensive team, if we're going to play as hard as anyone in the country, and we're going to have confidence in shot-making at the offensive end, I think that's why the guys looked relaxed because that's who we are right now,” said Hurley.

Creighton Bluejays 

The Bluejays enter the NCAA Tournament as a 6 seed following a Big East championship game loss to the Villanova Wildcats at Madison Square Garden last Saturday. 

The Bluejays were rolling to start the season and early on in Big East play before starting guard Maurice Watson Jr. went down with an ACL injury. After suffering back to back losses to Marquette and Georgetown, the Blue Jays got the season back on track. 

“Creighton had to completly revamp everything they did because it all was centered around Watson. Then he goes down. Even now in the NCAA Tournament, I’m not sure if Greg McDermott knows exactly how things are going to pan out,” said Nick Bahe, who played for Creighton from 2006-2008 and currently hosts a sports talk show on 1620 The Zone in Omaha. 

Creighton is led by guard Marcus Foster who averages 18 points per game and center Justin Patton, who averaged 13 points per game. Patton, a 7-foot freshman, is shooting nearly 70% from the field entering the tournament. 

“He is a special player, there are not too many players in the country that can do what he can do. He puts  a lot of pressure on the rim when he is rolling to the basket  and obviously a great rim protector on defense. It’s been incredible to watch him,” said Bahe. 

URI Basketball - 2 Things to Watch 

Martin vs Patton 

This is one of the most intriguing matchups of the game. As mentioned above, Patton, averages 13 points a game and also pulls down six rebounds a game. He is effective on offense and anchors the Blue Jays defense. 

Martin enters the game averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game while also averaging 2.6 blocked shots per game. 

“He's really tall and we've got to push him off the ball, not let him get close to the basket. So we have to get physical with him and push him off the block and force him to take shots that he's not comfortable taking,” said Martin on the matchup.

URI’s Defense 

The Rams are one of the best defensive teams in the country, giving up 64 points per game as a team. 

“We try to knock the teams off of running their play smoothly and we see one person getting into their defender we try to feed off that and try to do it so whoever we are playing and therefore we just play defense as a whole very good,” said E.C. Matthews at the press conference on Thursday. 

Kuran Iverson leads the Rams with 7.4 rebounds per game while Stanford Robinson averages 1.2 steals per game off the bench. 

“I think this game is going to come down to how Creighton handles the ball against Rhode Island’s pressure. They have been bit by the turnover bug at times this season, so if they avoid turnovers they will have a chance to win,” said Bahe. 

See more on the matchup below 

  • URI

    G - E.C. Matthews - Redshirt Junior 

    The biggest story line for the upcoming college basketball season in Rhode Island is the return of Matthews from a torn ACL, which he suffered in the first game of the 2015-16 season. 

    "Anytime you return a guy who is a potential player of the year candidate and potential NBA Draft pick, it gives the entire team a shot in the arm," said URI head coach Dan Hurley. 

    Matthews was named second team all-conference at the Atlantic 10 media day, and most recently, he was named to the Jerry West Award watch list for the third straight season. 

    For his career, Matthews averages 16 points per game. 

  • URI

    G - Jared Terrell - Junior 

    Terrell has started 64 of the 65 games that he has played in his career, and this season will split back court duties with E.C. Matthews, giving the Rams one of the best back courts in the conference. 

    Last season, Terrell averaged 13.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game for the Rams, reaching double figures in scoring in 13 of URI's final 14 games. 

    In those 13 games, Terrell had at least 20 points in six of them. 

  • URI

    G - Jarvis Garrett - Junior

    How tough is Garrett?

    During a January 30 game against St. Joseph's, Garrett was knocked out, and would miss the next game against UMass.

    He would return the following game against La Salle wearing a full face mask, and poured in a career high 26 points.

    Garrett would play with the mask the remainder of the season.

    He ended the year shooting 42% from three-point land to to lead URI, while averaging 12.5 points and 4.7 assists per game. 

    He was named to the USBWA All-District one team at the close of the regular season. 

  • URI

    F - Hassan Martin - Senior 

    Martin became the first URI Ram to win the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Award since its inception in 1996-97 despite being bothered by a knee injury and missing URI's last four games.  

    Martin was named to the A-10's preseason all-defensive team and also second team all conference at A-10 media day. 

    "When Hassan was at his best was during his sophomore year when he was just a complete animal. I think you will see some of that this year," said Hurley.  

    Martin had 103 blocked shots and 24 steals during his sophomore season, while averaging 11.4 points per game, helping the Rams earn a spot in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). 

    In 2015-16, Martin averaged 2.5 blocks per game overall, and 2.4 blocks per game in conference play, putting him atop the league leaders for the third straight season. The 2.5 blocks per game was 18th best in the country.

    Martin finished his 2015-16 season with 65 blocked shots, ranking him sixth in program history for most blocks in a season. He is also second all-time on URI's career blocked shots list with 248 blocks. 

    Offensively, Martin averaged 12 points per game last season, averaging nine points per game for his career. 

    Reunited with Matthews, the two will serve as one of the top 1-2 punches in the A-10.

  • URI

    F - Kuran Iverson - Senior 

    Now in his second season with the Rams after transferring in from Memphis, Iverson is coming off a 2015-16 campaign where he averaged 9.8 points per game, and recorded four double-doubles. 

    Expect to see Iverson get much better looks this year with the return of E.C. Matthews. 

    "I think for him its just simplyfiyng his game. He has so much talent on the floor, he needs to focus on doing a couple of things really well," said Hurley. "He has the ability to be an elite offensive rebounder, just needs to keep it simple."

    Iverson is the cousin of NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. 

  • Providence

    G - Kyron Cartwright - Junior 

    Kyron Cartwright has big shoes to fill as he replaces Kris Dunn at the point guard position. 

    "We are looking for Kyron to be a vocal leader, and a leader on the floor. We need him in order to get where we want to go," said Providence head coach Ed Cooley. 

    During the 2015-16 season, Cartwright averaged six points and four assists per game for the Friars in an average of 24.2 minutes of action per game. 

  • Providence

    G - Ryan Fazekas - Sophomore 

    Sharpshooter Ryan Fazekas started 12 of 28 games for the Friars in his freshman season, but missed about a month of action due to mono. 

    Fazekas averaged five points per game for PC, and shot 34% from behind the three-point line for the year. 

    "I think that he is developing great, he continues to put the work in. He should be a focal point in our offense this year," said Ed Cooley. 

    His best game came against Brown in the third game of the season, when he connected on five of the eight three pointers that he attempted, scoring a career high 17 points. 

  • Providence

    F - Rodney Bullock - Junior

    Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil are gone, mean Bullock is going to be one of the go-to guys in the Friars offense. 

    "His role is going to change, Kyron's role is going to change. We are going to rely heavily on them for offense, and will need both of them to score points" said Cooley. 

    Bullock averaged 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds while playing an average of 32 minutes per game. 

    Rodney Bullock etched his name in the Providence College history books by hitting the game winning shot against USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

    The 2015-16 campaign was Bullock's first season of college basketball after he tore his ACL in October of 2014, and was suspended for the 2013-14 season. 

  • Providence

    F - Emmitt Holt - Junior 

    Holt, a 6 '7" forward with a 7'3" wingspan, comes to the Friars from Indian Hills Community College where he averaged 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 69% from the field. 

    Prior to Indian Hills, Holt attended the University of Indiana but was dismissed after being cited for illegal possession of alcohol in August of 2015. 

    That incident came just ten months after he hit teammate Devin Davis with his car, while having alcohol in his system. 

    "Emmitt is an impressive young name with a bright future, and he will have a successful final two seasons at Providence. Emmitt is the type of person and player that will try to do whatever is asked of him. He is very unselfish and will fit great into the basketball program at Providence, as well as in PC's community," said Indian Hills head coach, Hank Piona, upon Holt's commitment to Providence. 

    He has two years of eligibility left. 

  • Providence

    F - Kalif Young - Freshman 

    Young is a 6'9" forward with a 7'0" wingspan from Toronto, Canada where he attended Orangeville Prep. He is ranked as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com. 

    On the freshman class, Cooley said, "They are learning, they are nervous, they are trying not to make a mistake, which means they are making every mistake, but they will be okay. We just have to coach their confidence." 

    Last spring, Young played for the CIA Bounce of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) and averaged 6.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. 

  • Bryant

    G - Hunter Ware - Junior

    Hunter Ware started 29 of the 30 games that he played in for Bryant last season, and scored at least 20 points on six different occasions for the Bulldogs. 

    On the season, Ware averaged 12.7 points per game, while shooting 41% from the field. 

    "He has been around, now he is a junior so he has a great feel for what we are trying to do. The biggest thing for him is to show consistency with his shooting," said Bryant associate head coach Happy Dobbs. 

  • Bryant

    G -  Ikenna Ndugba - Freshman

    According to Dobbs, freshman Ikenna Ndugba will be in the starting lineup for the Bulldogs when they tip off their season in November. 

    Ndugba is from Boston where he played for coach John McVeigh at the Brooks School. 

    In his senior season, he led his team in scoring with 13 points, 6.5 assists and four steals per game while finishing third in rebounding, averaging six rebounds per game. 

    When the season ended, Ndugba was named Independent School League Player of the Year, New England Class B Player of the year and MVP of the New England Class B Tournament Team. 


    PHOTO: Ikenna Ndugba/twitter 

  • Bryant

    G - Nisre Zouzoua - Sophomore

    As a freshman, Brockton's Zouzoua  became only the second freshman to lead the Bulldogs in scoring in the program's Division I history. The previous freshman to do so was Alex Francis.

    Zouzoua appeared in 31 games for the Bulldogs, starting 25 of them. He was selected to the NEC All-Rookie team after leading Bryant with 12.8 points per game. 

    He also showed his range, knocking down 60 three-pointers on the year, and shooting 37% from behind the three-point line. The 60 three-pointers ranked second most among league rookies. 

  • Bryant

    F - Marcel Pettway - Sophomore

    North Providence's Pettway became only the second player in program history to earn the NEC Rookie of the Year award, after Alex Francis did it in 2011. He will look to build on that success in 2016-17. 

    "He is more confident coming back this year. Now he is just working on every aspect of his game and focusing more on his free throw shooting," said Dobbs. 

    In 2015-16, Pettway started the last 22 games for Bryant and finished his freshman year averaging 11.4 points per game, fourth best among league rookies. Pettway shot 59.7 percent from the field on the season and recorded 8 double-doubles, including a career high 26 points and 11 rebounds against Fairleigh Dickinson. 

    The 8 double-doubles are tied for most by a freshman in Bryant's Division I history. 

  • Bryant

    F - Dan Garvin - Senior 

    At 6'6" Garvin averaged 10.2 points and 8 rebounds per game in 26 games for Bryant during the 2015-16 campaign. 

    His eight rebounds per game were good enough for seventh best in the NEC. 

  • Brown

    G - Tavon Blackmon - Senior 

    Named a captain for the 2016-17 season, Blackmon is coming off a 2015-16 season in which he dished out 5.5 assists per game to lead the Ivy League, while ranking fourth in three-point field goal percentage - shooting 44% from behind the three-point line. 

    "All of our captains are important, but it all starts with Tavon. He is our point guard, the ball is in his hands. As we say, he is our engine," said Brown head coach Mike Martin. 

    Along with the assists, Blackmon also reached double figures in scoring 20 times, and scored at least 20 points on four different occasions for the Bears. 

    For his career, Blackmon averages ten points and 4.3 assists per game. 

  • Brown

    G - JR Hobbie - Senior 

    Named one of three captains for the 2016-17 season, sharpshooter Hobbie enters his final season ranking fifth all-time at Brown with 191 career three-pointers made. In 2015-16 he ranked third in the Ivy League in three-pointers made per game with an average of 2.6. 

    "JR is one of the best shooters that I have ever been around, he is a huge weapon for us," said Martin. 

    For his career, Hobbie averages 7.9 points per game and shoots 42% from three-point land. 

  • Brown

    F - Steven Spieth - Senior 

    Named one of three captains for the 2016-17 season, Spieth is coming off a 2015-16 campaign where averaged 10.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for the Bears.

    In his career, Spieth has started 86 of the 87 games that he has played in and has averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. 

    Spieth is the brother of professional golf star Jordan Spieth, who has won two major championships in his career, and most recently helped Team USA win the Ryder Cup. 

  • Brown

    F - David Erebor - Freshman 

    6'9" forward, Erebor is a rated as a two-star recruit, according to Scout.com, out of Our Lady of Carmel School in Maryland. 

    “David is a talented front court player, who comes with a very high ceiling. He's mobile, athletic, and can protect the rim defensively. Offensively, he is comfortable with his back to the basket or facing up. He will make an impact at both ends of the floor," said Brown head coach Mike Martin. 

    As a senior at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, Erebor averaged 15 points and eight rebounds per game. 

    He was named Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season. 

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