Stanford Faces Rhode Block in NIT

The Rhode Island Rams stand in Stanford's way as NIT action continues.

17 years to the day that Stanford beat Rhode Island with a Final Four berth on the line, the Cardinal and the Rams meet again in the postseason. This time, the stakes won’t be quite as high. But the loser still goes home.

Stanford (20-13, 9-9 Pac-12; RPI #59) hosts Rhode Island on Sunday evening in second-round NIT action. Last Tuesday, the No. 2-seed Cardinal dispatched No. 7-seed UC Davis, 77-64. Marcus Allen sparked Stanford with a career-high 22 points, hitting ten of twelve from the floor, slashing his way to the bucket all night, and sprinkling in an occasional three-pointer for good measure.

Reid Travis notched his first career double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds). With injuries continuing to put Stanford’s frontcourt in flux (as of this writing, the status of Michael Humphrey’s ankle is still unknown), Travis’s continued progress is vital to the Cardinal’s fortunes going forward.

There were other encouraging signs for the Cardinal against UC Davis. They didn’t wilt in the second half. They dished 17 assists. Despite all the Aggie fans in the house, they played well on the road in an abnormal atmosphere at Maples. And their defense put forth one of its more consistent all-around efforts, especially against a team that owned the three-point line all season.

No. 3-seed Rhode Island (23-9, 13-5 Atlantic 10; RPI #66) comes to The Farm fresh off an 88-75 win over Iona in the NIT’s first round. The Rams scored 51 points on Iona in the first half, hit six of their first seven three-point shots, and never looked back in the second half. Five players scored in double digits.

Sophomore guard E.C. Matthews leads Rhode Island with 16.7 points per game and has nine straight double-digit scoring games. Sophomore forward Hassan Martin has blocked 99 shots, and senior forward Gilvydas Biruta has also proven his worth around the rim. Matthews and Martin were named All-Atlantic 10 Second Team.

Freshman guards Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett make up the rest of the Rams’ probable starting lineup. Garrett leads the team with 91 assists, while Terrell scored 18 points against Iona. Senior captain T.J. Buchanan has been an X-factor off the bench.

As a program, Rhode Island has enjoyed a bounce-back season featuring its first 20-win mark in five years. The Rams went from 14 overall wins and five conference victories last season to 13 wins in Atlantic 10 play and at least 23 wins overall this season. They are one of only four teams nationwide to improve their win total by eight or more wins in conference and overall play (Stanford just beat one of the other teams: UC Davis).

The Rams beat then-21st ranked Nebraska in November, but lost by 16 to Kansas, and came up eight points short against Providence. They also went 0-4 against the Atlantic 10’s three NCAA Tournament teams (Dayton, Davidson, and VCU).

Sunday’s winner faces No. 5-seed Vanderbilt (21-13, 9-9 SEC; RPI #104) in the NIT quarterfinals. On Saturday, the Commodores handled bracket-busting No. 8-seed South Dakota State, 92-77.

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