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Rhode Island’s overtime win keeps tournament hopes alive

Rhode Island got quite the scare from Jack Gibbs and the Davidson Wildcats on Saturday evening. The only thing that stood between the Rams and a 5 game winning streak heading into Pittsburgh was Davidson, and Bob McKillop’s team almost played the role of the spoiler. Jack Gibbs had 29 points and Peyton Aldridge had 19, and with a 7 point lead heading into the final few minutes, it looked like Davidson could pull the upset.

But back came Rhode Island.

The Rams got some much-needed buckets from Hassan Martin and company to lead the comeback. Martin went for 21 points and grabbed 17 boards in his final performance in the Ryan Center. Rhode Island would go on to force overtime after Stanford Robinson’s game-saving block at the buzzer. Overtime was all Hassan Martin and E.C. Matthews. Though the Wildcats kept pushing, Rhode Island responded and used its home momentum to secure the win. A last second heave from Aldridge came up short at the buzzer, and the Rams survived.

Now having won 5 games in a row, Rhode Island is one of the hottest teams heading into the A-10 Tournament. Most Bracketologists agree that Rhode Island is right on the bubble, and at this point, a good or poor performance in the conference tourney could make or break this team’s season. Could the Rams go dancing this year? A big portion of this question relies on what other teams do in their conference tournaments.

Essentially, Rhode Island can control its own fate in one way: win the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Though it’s easier said than done, the Rams have proven their ability to hang with any team in the league, and though they certainly don’t have the easiest path to a title, they’re playing like one of the best teams in the conference. 1 or 2 tournament wins are probably necessary to ensure an at-large bid. Anything else is suspect. We don’t know how the Selection Committee is going to evaluate this team’s resume. Could it place more value in an ACC team with 13 losses but a difficult SOS? We don’t know. The only way for Rhode Island to lock up a bid is to keep winning.

It can not be understated how big Saturday night’s win was for Rhode Island. Seniors Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson played with an incredible amount of urgency. E.C. Matthews performed like the star that he is. Even Stanford Robinson came through, doing all of the little things in the extra session. It would be enormous for the program as well as the conference if Rhode Island could get a tournament bid this year. There are still plenty of obstacles in its way, but Rhode Island is hot. If the Rams play with the kind of intensity and fearlessness that we saw in the final minutes against Davidson, there will be no stopping this team in Pittsburgh.

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Grant Labedz is a college basketball superfan who loves the entire sport but definitely has favorites in the A-10 and the Big Ten. He has written for ...