By Gabe Hauari
Rhode Island defeated VCU 70-63 in the championship game of the A-10 tournament Sunday afternoon to secure its spot in the NCAA tournament.
The Rams from Rhode Island were led by Jared Terrell an E.C. Matthews, who had 20 and 19 points, respectively. They shot a scorching 51.7% from the floor in the first half, shooting 15-of-29 and opening up a 40-27 lead at halftime. URI also made 6 of their 8 three-pointers in the first half.
“E.C.’s a special talent. Hassan, if he’s healthy all year I think him against Cline (for A-10 POY) would have been a heck of a race,” said Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley.
The Rams from Virginia, on the other hand, opened up the game with a 23.7% shooting effort from the floor in the first half. They shot just 9-of-38 and struggled to get anything going offensively.
VCU was led by JeQuan Lewis, who had 15 points, and Justin Tillman, who had a double-double of 10 points and 17 rebounds. VCU made a concerted effort to win the rebounding battle, which they did by a 47-36 margin, including 23 offensive rebounds. However, they finished with just 14 second-chance points.
“23 offensive boards looks good on a stat sheet, but that’s a lot of misses,” said VCU head coach Will Wade. “We didn’t convert nearly enough of our shots,” he added.
Rhode Island led by 17 at one point, but VCU cut the deficit to 3 when Lewis hit a layup with 1:20 to go, but Matthews hit a jumper on the ensuing possession to bring their lead back up to 5.
E.C. Matthews was named the tournament’s MVP after averaging 19.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in Rhode Island’s three games.
With the win, Rhode Island guarantees a spot in the NCAA tournament, which begins next week. As for VCU, it is difficult to imagine them not making the tournament after winning 26 games and falling in the title game.
The Atlantic 10 is likely to have three representatives in this year’s tournament, with Dayton rounding out the trio.
As always, stay tuned to Rams Review for coverage of Selection Sunday and the NCAA tournament heading into next week.