Commentary by Nick Murgo
December 7, 2003
|It was billed as a game for the ages. A game that would bring justice for the three decade absence of a home game in Kingston. The outcome met the advance billing. While it was snowing at a rate of 3" per hour outside, the running Rams were raining down treys on the Providence Friars inside, hitting 10 of 14 for 71%.|
With the win over PC, the Rhode Island Rams once again can claim the State title. The boys in blue defeated Brown University earlier in the week, and then convincingly defeated Providence College today. Rhode Island came into the game with the reputation of being a tough, gritty, scrappy team. A team that was struggling with outside shooting, yet URI came up only four points short of defeating the National Champions Syracuse University at the Carrier Dome one week ago. This was in spite of hitting only one of 22 three point attempts. A team that was later stymied by a Brown zone defense, and were almost upset by the Bruins in the closing seconds. Providence no doubt figured that their 2-3 zone would be like an electric fence. But Rhode Island has shooters on the team and one wondered what would happen to the opposing team when they found their mark? What kind of one - two punch could they deliver and would it be enough to knock-out the likes of a reputable Providence team?
Providence came into the game ranked 25th by the local experts. They had played consistently, winning their first three games at the Dump Center. "I'm not sure you want to know what I think," said Paul Kenyon in the pre game show on AM 920. "They (PC) can do many things well. They really look like a tourney team. I think Providence will win."
In fact, many writers and radio personalities had already started talking up the hype of post season play by PC - before they even starting regular season Big East league play! The NCAA conversation now includes Rhode Island, but again the talk is premature and it actually takes away from all the fun of playing regular season games. Why look so far ahead and talk about the end of the season? The end will come soon enough, let's take the time to enjoy the journey - and for that we return to the Rams-PC match up.
The Rams were rated as under dogs in their own home, the mighty Friars were coming to town with the greatest zone defense seen in these parts in years. This isn't a play by play commentary and to get right to the point, Rhode Island and Providence both played a great game. And yes the fans did get their money's worth and then some. The blizzard of 2003 will serve to intensify the truly wonderful game that was played at the Ryan center, and of course Rhode Island's marvelous victory. No doubt the words, "I was there in 2003," will be proudly spoken by the 7,000 plus Rhody fans who braved the elements to see this terrific game.
How did Rhode Island beat Providence College? The Rhode Island players stepped up and shot the lights out of the Ryan Center. They turned back wave after wave of Providence attacks. The hot shooting Rams essentially rendered PC's zone defense useless. They didn't forget how to rebound and fight for loose balls. Rhode Island kept PC off balance with the different defensive schemes that they used. Rhode Island also had the 6th man advantage. The Rhody fans were into the game from the moment that Rhode Island scored its first three point basket. They felt the mojo.
The pundits were correct, this is a very good PC team - perhaps even not over rated at 25th. What no one (in the popular press and talk shows) gave enough thought to however, was the masterful game plan that Rhody coach Jim Baron would design. Even further from consideration was the fact that Rhode Island plays as well at home as any team in the country. Call it magic or mojo, Rhody finds a way to win and the fans love it. Underneath the glitz lies the simple truth. Rhode Island players have a great work ethic. They practice hard, play hard, and the guys find a way to win by using the skills and talents that they have in a very competitive and energetic way - as Providence found out again.
The 87 picture slide show below was shot from three rows above the Providence College bench. Enjoy.
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December 6, 2003