RAMS’ RHODE COMES TO END
Hurley’s team runs out of magic vs. Oregon
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.
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.