RAMS’ RHODE COMES TO END

Hur­ley’s team runs out of magic vs. Oregon

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - KEVIN ARM­STRONG

Here were Dan Hur­ley’s charges, giv­ing Oregon hell in the sec­ond round of the NCAA Tour­na­ment, the East coast con­tender scrap­ping and scor­ing once more in Sacra­mento. They had flown cross-coun­try from the At­lantic 10 as tour­na­ment cham­pi­ons, and now they were clos­ing in on top­pling a Pac 12 op­po­nent.

Rhode Is­land’s Rams proved re­lent­less, drib­bling right at the Ducks be­fore bury­ing a pull-up, div­ing on the floor to save a loose ball and tip­ping in a team­mate’s miss. They hedged hard, but got whis­tled for an of­fen­sive foul on one drive. Sec­onds later, it was Tyler Dorsey, a Duck, walk­ing up to drop a dag­ger from three. The Rams had no re­sponse, un­able to fire off any­thing more than an air ball. Hur­ley, a shout-un­til-hoarse coach, mo­tioned to his men, en­cour­ag­ing calm­ness with both hands.

This was the end of Rhode Is­land’s March. Oregon won, 75-72. The No. 3 seed out­lasted the No. 11, as it usu­ally does, but this was an inim­itable March matchup. Rhode Is­land led by as many as 11 points; Oregon grew an eight-point lead at one point. Trou­ble came in the form of fouls. Has­san Martin, the Rams’ se­nior for­ward from Staten Is­land, picked up his first foul 23 sec­onds into the con­test and his sec­ond came seven min­utes in. He never re­cov­ered, played 14 min­utes to­tal and reg­is­tered zero points, zero re­bounds af­ter en­ter­ing the game with an av­er­age of 14 points and 7 re­bounds per game. This was no reg­u­lar game. He broke down in tears af­ter­ward, his coach pat­ting him on the back as they made their way off court, into the off­sea­son. His re­la­tion­ship with Hur­ley traced back to when Hur­ley re­built Wag­ner. Now it was the end of his ten­ure on Hur­ley’s team, of his col­lege ca­reer.

“These guys did so much for our pro­gram and couldn’t be prouder,” Hur­ley said. “Couldn’t be prouder.

This was the stage Hur­ley sought when he stayed put last spring. He was re­cruited back to Rut­gers as head coach, the univer­sity where he served as an as­sis­tant coach for five sea­sons early in his ca­reer. He turned down the of­fer, bet­ting on this URI team, re­ly­ing on its com­mit­ment to his coach­ing and vice versa. They co­a­lesced in Fe­bru­ary, go­ing un­beaten from Feb. 15 un­til Sun­day. They drew plau­dits, lured for­mer star La­mar Odom back as a sup­porter in the stands for the tour­ney opener and al­to­gether grew into a pop­u­lar Cin­derella pick in brack­ets. None of that helped with the shot clock off in the fi­nal sec­onds, though. The Rams reached this point with an ag­gres­sive ap­proach and E.C. Matthews, the mae­stro Hur­ley watched charge back onto the court from an ACL tear the pre­vi­ous cam­paign, eyed

the Ducks’ de­fense. There were no open­ings. A path for­ward did not ap­pear. He pulled up from deep, and the ball went far­ther than the rim. It was a de­flat­ing fin­ish for a team buoyed by its own abil­ity to move off the bub­ble and into an au­to­matic bid the week be­fore.

This was the dif­fi­cult end of the fam­ily busi­ness. Hur­ley’s fa­ther, Bob, and brother, Bobby, stood by and sup­ported him in Cal­i­for­nia. Their teams, at St. Anthony High of Jer­sey City and Ari­zona State, re­spec­tively, were done. Dan car­ried the fam­ily flag. He stomped his feet and bore wit­ness to an im­pres­sive flour­ish from his charges. They led the third seed into the fi­nal min­utes, and watched a last-sec­ond shot fall harm­lessly out­side the rim’s cylin­der. Hur­ley’s team headed back east, out of the tour­na­ment, the pro­gram’s first NCAA vic­tory since 1998 in the open­ing round a con­so­la­tion T prize of sorts. his was the tough end for now, though. Hur­ley’s team hus­tled, but it just couldn’t find one more bas­ket be­fore the call for calm was made and Martin’s tears fell. Oregon hit its con­tested three; Rhode Is­land missed its at­tempt. The Rams re­treated to the locker room. More hard work was wait­ing af­ter a long flight home.

AP

Dan Hur­ley gives Rhode Is­land guard Jared Ter­rell a shoul­der to cry on af­ter the Rams lose to Tyler Dorsey (inset) and Oregon on Sun­day in Sacra­mento, where URI’s sea­son comes to end de­spite hold­ing dou­ble-digit lead at one point.

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