Marist-Rhode Island Preview
The first win out of the way, No. 23 Rhode Island opens play in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off with a home game against Marist on Monday night at Kingston, R.I.
The tournament, which starts at home sites, has the Rams (1-0) playing at home Wednesday against local rival Brown. They then shift to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., to play Cincinnati (26th in the opening poll) before going up against either No. 1 Duke or Penn State.
E.C. Williams, whose 2015-16 season ended 10 minutes into the opening game because of a knee injury, returned to the court with a 21-point effort on 9-for-12 shooting as URI easily disposed of Dartmouth 84-61 on Friday night.
Hassan Martin added the 16th double-double of his college career with 12 points and 10 rebounds and picked up seven blocked shots.
Martin, who also had a knee injury last season, played just 24 minutes but took a run at his second career triple-double.
“Coach (Dan Hurley) had to calm me down,” Matthews said after his return, almost a year to the day of his injury. “He called me last night to let me know just to let it come. It felt good to be back. I've been doing this my whole life. Just being comfortable and reading and reacting and having a good pace are important.”
Matthews hit a 3-pointer early in the game, putting him over the 1,000-point career scoring plateau. He also had three steals in the win.
“We got separation in the second half,” Hurley said. “We played a level of defense that was an elite defense. We held them to 35 percent from the field and forced 20 turnovers. That's kind of who we are.”
The Rams were picked second — to Dayton — in the preseason Atlantic 10 poll. They are ranked at the start of the season for the first time since 1998-99 and ranked for the first time overall since 2007-08.
Obviously, having Matthews and Hassan healthy is a major factor.
Martin began the game as URI's all-time leader in field goal percentage at 57.3 percent and went 5-for-6 in the opener.
In a statistical oddity, the Rams had 11 assists, 11 turnovers and 11 blocked shot in the game.
Marist, 7-23 last season, didn't have as much fun down at Duke on Friday night, falling 94-49 in a Hall of Fame game at Durham, N.C.
“I didn't think we played at our best,” Marist coach Mike Maker said after the game, “but Duke had a lot to do with that.”
The Red Foxes, 4-16 in Matro Atlantic Athletic Conference play last season, was tabbed to finish eighth in the 11-team league.
They should be in for another rough ride Monday night.
Jared Terrell and Kuran Iverson were also in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively, for Rhode Island, which led 39-26 at halftime.
Stanford Robinson, a transfer from Indiana, played 19 minutes and had seven points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals — without a turnover — in his URI debut.
“It's been several months — a year for some — since we've been on the court,” said Hurley. “The crowd and all the anticipation of our first game — we've all been working so hard. We're just excited about the season.”