Rushed Reactions: #7 Rhode Island 83, #10 Oklahoma 78 (OT)

Posted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is in Pittsburgh this weekend.

Rhode Island Gutted Out Another NCAA Tournament Victory (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. What a start to the NCAA Tournament. This afternoon’s action represented the first game of the Round of 64 this year and it certainly did not disappoint. Regulation was marked by both teams trading punches and finding responses to stay within striking distance. Oklahoma came back to force overtime thanks to heroics from freshman phenom Trae Young, as the point guard extraordinaire scored the Sooners’ final 11 points of regulation to knot the game at 69. Rhode Island had a pair of chances to win it in regulation, but a Jeff Dowtin jumper rattled off the rim and Stanford Robinson‘s put-back attempt agonizingly fell off to force the extra period. While Rhode Island was able to put together several strong possessions in a row and eventually pull away in overtime, this game was a strong reminder of what makes the NCAA Tournament such an exciting event every single year.
  2. E.C. Matthews carried Rhode Island in the overtime period. With Rhode Island trailing 72-71 and under two minutes to play, it went to its senior leader for a much-needed spark. E.C. Matthews buried a three-pointer with 1:52 left to give the Rams a two-point lead, and he followed that up by burying another one with 31 seconds remaining to give his team an insurmountable five-point lead. The Rams had to be disappointed that they had squandered a late lead in regulation, but a senior leader like Matthews ensured that his team was going to carry on and win the game in overtime. Leading up to Rhode Island’s Second Round game on Saturday, it is a near certainty you will hear more about the long and winding career of Matthews.
  3. This was likely Trae Young’s last college basketball game. If you have followed college basketball this season, you have certainly heard more than enough about Oklahoma’s Trae Young. In likely his final game as a Sooner, he turned in a very on-brand performance to support his certain All-America bona fides. Young finished the afternoon with 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting (3-of-9 3FG) to go along with seven assists and six turnovers. The best part of his performance, though, was that Young was really all Oklahoma had as an offensive option when it needed a big play. It was a benefit and a challenge which was pretty much the entire story for Oklahoma this season — and ultimately caused Lon Kruger‘s Sooners to go one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament. Young is an exceptional player who seems poised to have a lengthy NBA career, but it is somewhat a shame that he did not receive more assistance from his teammates during his tenure as the Sooners’ star point guard.

Player of the Game. Fatts Russell, Rhode Island. The Rams were able to build that lead in regulation by receiving some instant offense from reserve freshman guard Fatts Russell. The 5’10”, 165-pound guard who is not at all aptly-named came off the bench to throw in 15 points in just 21 minutes of action. The performance was so noteworthy because it seemed that all of his shots came at key moments when Rhode Island really needed a play. In his postgame remarks, Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley shared that he texted with Russell last night and jokingly offered him a bit of motivation by saying that, other than Trae Young, Russell was the best guard in his class. During this afternoon’s proceedings, it was  clear that Russell took some exception to his coach’s joke.

Quotable.

  • “It is about surviving and advancing – and wow, what an exciting game to be a part of.” – Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley, acknowledging how happy he was that his team was able to emerge victorious in such a hotly-contested affair.
  • “Hitting big shots for my teammates? There is nothing better.” – Rhode Island guard E.C. Matthews, discussing the pair of important three-pointers he drained in overtime.
  • “It is tough. You never want it to end.” – Oklahoma guard Trae Young, expressing his disappointment with the season-ending defeat.

Sights and Sounds. The Rhode Island fan section badly outnumbered the Oklahoma group with light blue being the color of choice for a majority of the fans at PPG Paints Arena. The most noteworthy member of the Rhode Island fan section was legendary high school coach Bob Hurley, Sr., on hand in Pittsburgh to support his younger son’s team.

What’s Next. Rhode Island advances to the Second Round where it will meet #2 seed Duke on Saturday.

WCarey (279 Posts)


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