After going down with a knee injury against Davidson, Hassan Martin was ruled out for the rest of the season. This was devastating news for the Rams who were already without star player E.C. Matthews. The junior tore his ACL in Rhode Island’s season-opener against American. Since then, this team has suffered a barrage of unfortunate injuries. Jarvis Garrett missed one game earlier this season with a broken jaw. Kuran Iverson suffered a concussion in the same contest that Garrett got hurt in; he’d miss 3 games himself. Finally,
Hassan Martin went down with a season-ending injury, and key freshman Christion Thompson (concussion) has been ruled out for Thursday’s matchup against Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
After Martin went down, it looked as if this team was going to take a huge hit right off the bat, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Rhode Island got its biggest win of the season the very next game; the Rams pulled a 75-66 road upset over the top-seeded Dayton Flyers. In doing so, Rhody played a lineup that went just 7 players deep. Even without the shot-blocking presence of Martin, the Rams swatted away 4 shots on the night. In addition, they held Dayton’s post-presence, Steve McElvene, to just 2 points and 1 rebound. Kendall Pollard, in his first game back for Dayton, went just 2-10 from the floor for 8 points. Rhode Island’s win over Dayton was a team-effort; 5 different players finished in double digits. In addition, forwards Andre Berry and Earl Watson stepped up to give the Rams a much-needed boost in the paint. They combined for 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Rhode Island also had no trouble getting past Massachusetts the very next week. The Minutemen were held to just 12 first half points and couldn’t stop the balanced effort from the Rams; 4 players finished in double figures. Once again, Rhode Island’s forwards did a nice job picking up the slack that Hassan Martin’s absence creates. Kuran Iverson had a double-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and even 3 blocks as well. Earl Watson and Andre Berry each had 10 points and combined to pull down 14 boards. They’ve had some nice contributions without Hassan Martin these last couple of games. Even in the loss to Fordham, Berry and Watson combined for 16 points and 11 boards.
Though Iverson, Berry, and Watson have been great picking up the scoring slack, they’re going to have a tough time replacing Martin on defense. The junior ranks 30th in the nation in block percentage according to Kenpom, and his large frame gives him the ability to battle on the block with some of the better big men in the league. Fordham’s Ryan Rhoomes had a field day against Rhode Island in the season finale for both teams. He dropped 27 points on 11-17 shooting and pulled down 11 boards as well. His ability to work on the block killed the Rams who were without arguably their best defender. While Hassan Martin’s absence definitely hurts, this Rhode Island team has been resilient in the face of injury this season. Time after time, they’re finding ways to grind out wins over tough teams and continue to assert themselves. Even without Martin, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rhode Island get hot and win a couple games in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.