NEW YORK — There’s only one group of Rams who can lay claim to being the bullies of the Atlantic 10 over the last three seasons.
It’s not VCU, who carried a 12-game winning streak into the conference tournament at Barclays Center this weekend. The team that’s eliminated them from this event three consecutive times, the University of Rhode Island, still wears that crown.
Fatts Russell’s foul trouble and Tyrese Martin’s leg cramps were minor inconveniences. Jeff Dowtin’s ice-cold blood, a breakout day from Dana Tate and the toughness that accompanies a championship culture were all in evidence, as URI felled the No. 1 seed in the quarterfinals.
It was a 75-70 victory for a program that has fought its way into the league’s elite. Dowtin’s team-high 23 points led four players in double figures in double figures and helped URI overcome a monster double-double from VCU’s Marcus Santos-Silva.
Christion Thompson’s pair of free throws with 2.0 seconds left iced it. URI trailed for just 27 seconds over the final 16:00, mounting a 9-0 run to take command for keeps. Cyril Langevine’s putback with 5:07 left gave URI its largest lead at 70-62, one the Rams were able to carry through to the finish.
It’s the sixth time since 2006 that the tournament’s top seed has fallen in this round. It’s also just the ninth time URI has won multiple games at this event, improving to 7-1 over the past three years. The draw opens up for URI to face either St. Bonaventure or George Mason in Saturday’s semifinals.
URI’s breakthrough in Pittsburgh two years ago ushered in a new era. The Rams outlasted VCU, 70-63, in the title game to clinch an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. URI entered ass the regular season champions last season and dispatched VCU, 76-67, in the quarterfinals.
VCU appeared to be in command early until an unfortunate turn of events with 6:42 to play in the first half. Marcus Evans crashed to the floor after being fouled on a breakaway layup attempt and grabbed for his left knee. The All-Conference First Team guard was helped to the locker room and returned on crutches, ruled out with what VCU called a hyperextension and bone bruise.
It was a 26-18 game at that point, one URI tightened to 37-34 by the break. Cyril Langevine’s first points didn’t come until the 1:58 mark, but Martin did most of the heavy lifting with a team-high 11. URI was also a perfect 10-for-10 at the foul line through the opening 20 minutes.
Source:: Daily times