Dan Hurley has had quite the tenure at Rhode Island. Last year, he guided the Rams to 25 wins; this year, he’s on an even better pace, as No. 16 Rhode Island (21-3) has won 16 straight games.
The Rams are tied with No. 5 Cincinnati (23-2) for the longest winning streak in the country.
“Rhode Island is the smallest state in the union, but they sure love us in this state right now,” Hurley said on Ferrall on the Bench. “They have a team that they’re real proud of. We followed up the best year that the program’s had in 18 years – back from when Lamar Odom and Cuttino Mobley were playing here – with a historic season. Providence obviously is a huge program here, but our fan base is growing, and things are getting really exciting.”
Rhode Island is led by senior guards Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews, who are averaging 17.5 and 12.9 points, respectively. Matthews, though, injured his left knee in the first half of an 85-67 win over Richmond on Tuesday.
“I think it’s a pretty good prognosis based on the early returns,” Hurley said. “It’s a jarring thing emotionally. I think it kind of knocked us on our heels for a little bit of the game. This is a young man that is a potential early entry candidate to the NBA, a potential first-round pick that’s dealt with the ACL a couple years ago, a fractured wrist in the preseason, a couple other minor things that have disrupted hm. But we feel like he’s going to come out of this one a lot cleaner than the others. Hopefully it was just a scare and we’ll have him back hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Until then, the Rams will hold down the fort with physical, suffocating defense. The son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley wouldn’t have it any other way.
“To have the dad that I have, a Hall of Famer, preach defense is just something I picked up growing up,” Hurley said. “Studying everything my father did as a coach, his defensive philosophies – now I’m implementing those. And to be honest with you, we recruit junkyard dogs. We get out guys from the Northeast – from New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia). Those guys, man, they’re not afraid of anyone. They’ll get in people’s shirts. We make our opponents real uncomfortable.”
The Rams, who are 13-0 in the Atlantic-10, play their next two games on the road, beginning with St. Bonaventure (19-6, 9-4) on Thursday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET.