Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top 25 Player Countdown. Each day, we publish a new article counting down the 25 best players in the Atlantic 10 this past season. Today, we continue our countdown with #11 E.C. Matthews.
The 2016-2017 season marked the return of E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island MBB’s superstar, former 2014 Atlantic 10 Co-Rookie of the Year, and member of the 2015 Atlantic 10 All-Conference second team and 2015-16 Preseason All-Atlantic 10 First Team. The buildup for this man’s return was felt among all of the Rhode Island fan base. Throughout the past season, Matthews made his anticipated return and helped his team with completing historic achievements that were not carried out in an extremely long time.
Throughout the non-conference portion of the schedule, E.C. Matthews tore up inferior competition, particularly on the offensive end. Starting out the season, on November 11, 2016, he made the transition to starting small forward and dropped 21 points at home versus Dartmouth, as he tried to show everyone he was back for good. Next, in a complete and utter 107-65 decimation of Marist, Matthews dropped 22 points on just 5-6 shooting from the field in the second game of Rhode Island’s season. Before heading out to Uncasville, CT, the Romulus alumnus scored 17 points on another 5-6 shooting night in a 79-72 home victory; this time versus in-state rival, the Brown Bears.
In arguably the clutchest performance of this individual’s college career, E.C. Matthews hit two huge three-pointers against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament. The first of the long-range jumpers gave his team a 69-65 lead with 2:40 remaining in the game. Shortly thereafter, in the biggest jump shot of Rhode Island’s non-conference games, Matthews hit a three that proved to be the game winner, putting his team up 74-69 and only 21.7 seconds left. Ultimately, the win over the Bearcats was URI’s best non-conference victory and the best statistical win of their entire regular season.
After a pretty disappointing performance throughout URI’s 2017 senior night versus Davidson, E.C. Matthews emerged late in the game to bring his team over the edge, 73-70 in overtime. Among his big scoring plays down the stretch, there was a thunderous dunk that was shared all over social media for the remainder of the night (as seen below). After this dunk, the message to America was clear – E.C. Matthews’ right knee was fully healed.
In the Atlantic 10 tournament, E.C. Matthews scoring performances of 20 points, 19 points, and 19 points in three straight days went a long way to his team securing the championship trophy and an automatic bid into the 2017 NCAA tournament. Namely, in the championship game against VCU, Matthews began the three-point barrage early on and then closed out the game in the final minute with a layup off the glass that all but secured the victory. Moving on, at the beginning of the March Madness, the URI starting small forward scored 16 points in an 84-72 first-round victory over Creighton, which included a 10 of 10 performance from the free throw line.
Coming off of a grotesque ACL tear of his right knee, #0 from the Rhode Island Rams managed to play in all 35 of his team’s games. As one of Rhode Island’s best offensive players in the past season, E.C. Matthews had a true shooting percentage of 54.6%. This shooting percentage led to the wing player averaging 14.9 points per game on 42.7% shooting from the field and 33.7% shooting from beyond the arc. Furthermore, Matthews had three games with an offensive rating of exactly 136 and 11 total games with an offensive rating of at least 121.
The Rhode Island Rams had a considerably successful 2016-2017 season after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament and progressing into the second round of the 2017 NCAA tournament. E.C. Matthews was still not at his best in this past season but his late game heroics helped his team on multiple occasions. Overall, an “average” season for the Detroit native still made significant contributions to Dan Hurley’s basketball team. Just like in his sophomore season, the wing landed on the Atlantic 10 All-Conference second team again. Evidently, if Matthews can play like he did towards the end of his junior year, then watch out college basketball world.