Duquesne @ URI: Matthews Scores 32 but Rams Fall Again
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Freshman standout E.C. Matthews scored a career-high 32 points, but the URI Rams dropped their 5th straight Atlantic 10 game Saturday at the hands of Duquesne, 83-71.
The Dukes were spearheaded by All-Conference candidate Ovie Soko, and the senior big man’s contributions went beyond his 19 point, 12 rebound double-double.
Soko excels at getting to the free throw line and drawing fouls down low, and on Saturday he drew a pair of fouls on Gilvydas Biruta early in the first half. With Biruta on the bench and Ifeanyi Onyekaba serving a one game suspension, the entire complexion of the game changed.
A 20-2 first half run for the Dukes turned a 15-8 Rhody lead into a 28-17 deficit for the Rams. URI’s depleted roster was ineffective all afternoon on the defensive end, allowing Duquesne to shoot 57% for the game.
L.G. Gill was the unsung hero for Duquesne, shooting 5-6 from 3-point range and scoring a career-high 19 points off the bench. Gill’s previous career-high was 7 points, and he helped the Dukes outpace the Rams 30-2 in bench scoring.
Matthews finished 11-15 from the floor and 6-8 from 3-point range, besting his previous career-high by 8 points. Xavier Munford scored 16 points but shot just 5-13, and Hassan Martin finished with 9 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks for the Rams.
URI struggled again from the free throw line, shooting just 52% and missing 3 front ends of 1-and-1s. Coupled with 15 turnovers and a -4 mark in rebounding (29-25), URI’s shortcomings more than outweighed Matthews’ best efforts to will the team to a win.
URI Head Coach Dan Hurley was at a loss for words after the game when asked why his star freshmen (Matthews and Martin) were making consistent improvements and his upperclassmen were not.
“I don’t have an explanation for it…It’s not supposed to happen,” Hurley said. “We’ve got some guys that have to look in the mirror.”
Hurley described his feelings as mixed because he is encouraged about the “big picture” with Matthews and Martin continuing to produce, but he was obviously discouraged by the result of the game.
It was Duquesne’s first road win in conference play and improved the Dukes’ record to 3-8 in the Atlantic 10 and 11-13 overall.
URI falls to 2-9 in the A-10 and 11-15 overall. The Rams’ next game is Wednesday night at the Ryan Center against St. Joe’s (17-7 overall, 7-3 A-10). That game tips off at 7 p.m.
--Matthews scored 19 of his 32 points in the 2nd half, and in the process made a strong pitch to the Atlantic 10 that he deserves a 3rd straight Rookie of the Week honor. Matthews scored 54 points (36 in the 2nd halves of games) in 2 games this week, but Rhody lost both.
--Hurley said postgame that he wishes he could utilize a “fire and brimstone” practice to try and help his team snap out of their recent funk, but with the limited number of available bodies such a coaching technique is playing with fire. URI can’t afford to lose any more healthy players to injuries, and a tough, high intensity practice is a big risk to take given the circumstances.
--Saturday marked a homecoming of sorts for Duquesne forward Dominique McKoy. McKoy played for a year at URI in 2011-12 and transferred after that season. Saturday marked his first trip back to the Ryan Center, and McKoy responded with a solid 11 point, 9 rebound performance.
--Onyekaba is expected to be reinstated for Wednesday’s game against St. Joe’s. Onyekaba was suspended for a violation of team rules.