Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Rhode Island Surprise

January 20, 2003 Columns No Comments



Rhode Island Surprise

by Phil Kasiecki

Jim Baron didn’t see it happen. It might be fitting, considering many didn’t see Rhode Island playing as they have prior to this season, although he has also seen this kind of finish often this season.

“I was more concerned on the first shot than I was the second”, Baron said of the two shots in the final seconds of the game, the first of which was a miss. “I was just trying to fight for my players”, he added, feeling that Woodward was fouled on his first shot.

Baron didn’t see Brian Woodward steal the ball from St. Joseph’s center Dwayne Jones, then go back up and beat the buzzer in one motion for the winning shot on Sunday, but he knew what happened when the 5,916 fans in the Ryan Center went crazy. They knocked off a Hawks team that would have made a strong bid for the top 25 had they pulled the game out. Fans in the lower sections rushed the floor along with the players to celebrate the biggest win in the young history of the Ryan Center.

“I was going after the first shot”, Baron said on missing it, “and then, the second one, I saw everybody excited and I was like, ‘Holy smokes’. I didn’t realize it went in, I’m fighting the fight with the referees.”

The Rams have had three games come down to the final seconds this season, winning all three. They defeated USC in the first game ever played at the Ryan Center after a controversial shot by Desmon Farmer was waived off as coming after time expired, then beat in-state rival Providence as the Friars had a missed layup with one second left that would have tied the game and sent it to overtime. Sunday’s game might have topped both of them, as the Rams trailed for a good portion of the second half before scoring the game’s final 7 points.

“Wow, that was incredible”, Baron said in Sunday’s post-game press conference.

The Rams have won four straight games and are now 11-4 on the season, including 3-1 in Atlantic Ten games. The 3-1 mark is good for second place in the East Division of the Atlantic Ten, just one half game behind St. Joseph’s. Many projected the Rams to again be bottom-feeders as Baron continued to rebuild the team, but the Rams have exceeded expectations largely due to their perimeter unit. They force more turnovers than any other Atlantic Ten team, and three of their top four scorers play on the perimeter. They have had to rely on the perimeter players in part because the frontcourt is not very strong and undersized, though the committee of frontcourt players has likewise exceeded expectations.

The Rams’ success in some respects is a microcosm of the Atlantic Ten, a conference that looks to be on the upswing after going downhill the last few seasons; last season, only one team made the NCAA Tournament. Xavier has been nationally ranked for most of the season, while St. Joseph’s and Dayton look like solid NCAA Tournament contenders and many consider Richmond to be in the mix as well. They have helped the conference thrive despite the struggles of traditional power Temple, as well as Massachusetts, which at one time won five consecutive conference titles and made seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

Now the talk is that the Rams, who were picked no higher than fifth in many preseason publications and the Atlantic Ten coaches, are on the road to postseason play. With the way the season has gone thus far, such projections mean even less at this point than usual, but Baron and his players are keeping focused on the present and maintaining some perspective.

“For people to even talk about that is incredible”, Baron said. “You think of where we came from with this program, two years ago we won five games, three years ago we won seven, last year we won eight. It’s all perspective.”

Sophomore guard Hellenga added that he’s only looking ahead to Wednesday night. “I think we’re just looking ahead to Temple”, he said. “We’re going to enjoy this win tonight, wake up tomorrow morning and go hard in practice, two hard days of practice and hopefully get a win on Wednesday. I’m not really worried about any tournaments right now, it doesn’t even cross my mind.”

Hellenga also commented on how close the team is, which seemed to be lacking in the seasons prior to Baron’s arrival when they lacked life under Jerry DeGregorio. “This year we’re a totally different team. We’re close, we’re like a family. We know we can pull every game out, we believe we can win every game. Some people don’t, and that’s why they take us lightly, and that’s why it catches up to them.”

The beautiful new Ryan Center opened in November, and thus far the Rams are 6-2 in the new building. Attendance has nearly doubled, partly from the building having more than twice the capacity of Keaney Gymnasium and more from the excitement of the new facility and increased expectations for the team. So far, it has made a difference, and with the Rams playing well, attendance should only continue to increase. The crowd was lively near the end of the game, and it was not lost on Baron.

“I thought the crowd really got into it”, Baron said before thanking those who came out on the Sunday afternoon and looking ahead to their next game, a home date with Temple. “We got a big one Wednesday night, we look forward to having the total student body back, and we hope everybody comes up and gets this Ryan Center rocking and rolling. It became loud in there.”

Woodward also likes the atmosphere at games now. “It’s great”, he started. “The fans make it harder for the other teams that play in here, which is great. You have a lot of confidence when you come in, and just play hard.”

So far, the Rams are playing hard indeed, and the early returns suggest that we could see them in March after another of Baron’s great coaching jobs.

     

Comment on this Article:







Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville

Advertisement


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – October 2, 2017

October 2, 2017 by

The FBI has zeroed in on college basketball in a big way, and what has happened may be the beginning of a massive hit to the sport. We discuss what we know thus far in our latest podcast.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – August 17, 2017

August 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we check in with some good news from a few teams overseas after a big scare, plus a big addition for a championship contender, a conference on the rise, and a great coach thinking about a return to the bench.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about the NBA Draft, of course, but spend much more time on the happenings at Ohio State and Louisville and the implications starting next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – May 17, 2017

May 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we start with the NBA Draft Lottery, then talk about a big pickup for Duke, important transfers, the coaching carousel winding down and much more.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, the business of college sports, as well as that of sports media, takes center stage. We talk about the layoffs at ESPN, college basketball’s opening night, and Wichita State’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference. We close with thoughts on a departed friend of the media business as well.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.