PITTSBURGH (WPRI) – The NCAA Tournament got off to a dramatic start Thursday as the University of Rhode Island Rams defeated the Oklahoma Sooners in overtime.
The Rams pulled away late in the extra period, coming away with an 83-78 win. They’ll play #2 Duke in the next round after the Blue Devils soared past Iona by a score of 89-67.
The scoring was spread out for URI, with E.C. Matthews leading the Rams with 16 points. Freshman Fatts Russell provided a spark and 15 points off the bench, while Cyril Langevine added 14 and Jared Terrell put up 13.
With about nine minutes left in the game, Matthews knocked down a three to pull the Rams out in front, 52-50. Then, after falling back on defense, Russell got a quick steal and buried another three, putting URI up 55-50 and igniting the crowd in Rhody’s favor.
A pair of Trae Young free throws tied the game at 69 with just 15 seconds to play. Ensuing chances to win the game from URI’s Jeff Dowtin and Stanford Robinson came up short, sending the game into overtime.
In the final minute, Langevine made four clutch free throws and Russell added two more, which combined with a couple of E.C. Matthews three-pointers propelled URI to victory.
“To win the game the way we won it, having the chances at the end of regulation to win it, and then having to show the character to close it out in overtime just makes it even more exhilarating. It was a great moment,” URI head coach Dan Hurley said following the game.
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“I love playing with these guys, the seniors, and I didn’t want it to be our last time playing with them,” Russell said. “I have very good relationships with them so I mean, I was fighting out there just to get another game with them.”
Young, Oklahoma’s freshman point guard, came into the game leading the nation in both scoring (27.4) and assists (8.8). He led the Sooners with 28 points and 7 assists while center Jamuni McNeace added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Both hit shots within the final seconds but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Rams’ lead.
This marks the second year in a row that URI has won an NCAA Tournament game.
Rhode Island won the Atlantic 10 regular season this year but lost to Davidson in the conference championship. Led by the A-10 Coach of the Year, the Rams carried a national ranking for much of the year.
Tournament Tweets – #MarchHoops
MARCH HOOPS: Eyewitness Sports is following URI and PC every step of the way with live team coverage. Yianni Kourakis will have live reports from Pittsburgh where the Rams are playing in the NCAA Tournament and Ruthie Polinsky will be with the Friars in Charlotte.