E.C. Mathews is cold-blooded on the basketball court. With his team having seen its double-digit lead dwindle to four with 5:28 to go, Mathews pulled up from 25 feet with a hand in his face and drilled a clutch 3-pointer. Crisis averted.
Rhode Island (16-5, 8-2 Atlantic 10) made its free throws late and handed Richmond a 79-74 defeat on Sunday. Mathews finished with 26 points and 5 rebounds. He was 7-14 from the field and 9-13 from the line.
Mathews did have a game high 5 turnovers today which serves as a reminder that he is only a sophomore and still learning and growing but growing pains don’t hurt all that much when you get wins on the road.
Hassan Martin was a beast inside, getting 16 points and 16 rebounds with 2 blocks but his energy and effort were worth much more than his strong stat line might suggest.
Kendall Anthony scored 28 points and Terry Allen had 19 for the Spiders (12-11, 5-5), but Richmond didn’t get much from the rest of its starters or bench and struggled to score consistently all day. Cline did end up with 13 points but he had a hard time dealing with Martin in the paint for most of the afternoon.
Richmond finished the day going 2-10 from behind the arc. Those numbers just aren’t good enough against a team like Rhode Island. You have to make the Rams pay when you get good looks because they are going to guard you all day and those good looks will be limited.
Alonzo Nelson-Adoda took an inadvertent elbow to the eye early in the game and didn’t return. His absence was felt by the Spiders for the rest of the contest. Rhode Island crushed Richmond on the boards, 44-29, including 16 offensive rebounds.
I was really disappointed to see Nelson-Adoda get hurt today as I was looking forward to watching him and Martin get after it this afternoon. My letdown was nothing compared to the Spiders though. Richmond sorely missed Zo’s shot blocking and physical presence in the paint all day.
After the first half ended with Rhody up 33-26, the teams traded sloppy possessions to start the second half. Rhode Island had a 41-30 lead but Richmond started to gain some momentum and pulled off a 9-0 run thanks to some timely shooting and strong defense.
Anthony scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half. Many of them coming off of ridiculously acrobatic drives in the lane. The diminutive point guard played as if he was looking at the final 20 minutes of his career and he didn’t want it to end.
The teams went back and forth for the next 6 minutes until Mathews stepped up and hit the killer three-pointer. 1 minute later he did it again and Rhode Island all of a sudden had a 65-54 advantage.
Richmond did its best to lengthen the game and made things interesting late but Rhode Island went 6-6 in the final 18 seconds to wrap things up. The 6-6 from the line is impressive when you consider that the Rams were 21-37 for the game from the stripe. Richmond didn’t help its cause from the line, going 24-37.
Rhode Island’s unsung hero, T.J. Buchanan, finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 0 turnovers. Buchanan is the ultimate “glue guy.” He just makes plays and today he was 7-8 from the free throw line. He was just around the ball a lot and that was a good thing for the Rams.
Today was a big day for Rhode Island as they beat a Richmond team that rarely loses on its home court.
Coach Hurley after the game said, “It probably was our best win of the year,”
Rhode Island played aggressive half-court defense all day. The Rams have a physically imposing squad and are not afraid to mix it up with their opponents. Forget afraid, these guys relish the contact.
Earl Watson and Jared Terrell look like they should be playing for the New England Patriots right now. Hassan Martin is an absolute handful to deal with and even guys like Jarelle Reischel and T.J. Buchanan play with a physical edge to their game that borders on but doesn’t reach over-aggression.
Rhode Island is now in the mix for the regular season title and maybe more based on its growth and VCU’s recent lack of health. Mathews and Martin are a combination that will continue to serve notice that these Rams are ready to win now. The rest of the conference is definitely aware.