SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — The thunderous chants of “I believe that we will win!” from the student section began with just under two minutes to play in the second half.
They continued right through overtime as Rhode Island beat No. 21 Nebraska 66-62 Saturday night for its first win over a ranked opponent since 1998.
“It was a huge win for the program and for our players,” URI coach Dan Hurley said. “They work so diligently. Their preparation was so great. They’re so unselfish and committed to the program that they deserve a moment like this.”
E.C. Matthews and his teammates were engulfed by their classmates on the court after the sophomore guard’s 26-point performance, which included six points in overtime.
Jared Terrell added 12 points, including two 3-pointers in the extra session, and Hassan Martin pulled down 12 rebounds and eight points. Matthews added 10 boards as the Rams (3-0) outrebounded the Cornhuskers 49-36. The advantage on the glass led to 16 second-chance points.
There were 14 lead changes before overtime.
Terrell made a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the extra session to put the Rams on top, and this time that’s where they would stay, thanks to another 3 by Terrell, a free throw by T.J. Buchanan and Matthews’ last five points, all from the free throw line.
“I thought that those two shots that Terrell hit at the beginning of overtime were really kind of the separation point, obviously,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. “That was the only time that I felt like, ‘Oh, boy.’ The rest of the time, I felt like we were in decent shape. And then E.C., we knew he was good. … He does a lot of things really well. I was just very impressed with those guys. They’re a good physical bunch on the perimeter.”
Although Rhode Island shot a mere 25 percent from the field, going 0 for 11 from the perimeter, in the first half, Nebraska didn’t fare much better, shooting 31 percent overall and 2 for 11 from behind the arc.
Still, the Cornhuskers (2-1), who were led by Shavon Shields’ 25 points and nine rebounds, carried a slim four-point lead into halftime.
URI regained the lead in the second half thanks to an 8-0 run sparked by a three-point play by Matthews that put URI up 31-27.
The lead changed hands seven times over the next 14:56. After URI went ahead 53-51 on two free throws by Martin and a layup by Mathews, Shields made a basket to send the game into overtime.
“It was an enormous moment for our program,” Hurley said. “It’s what college basketball should be like around here.”
Nebraska: Terran Petteway succeeded in reaching double figures for the 14th-straight game, but it took him longer than usual. After averaging 24 points in his first two games, the Wooden Award candidate had just five points in the first half, going 2 for 9 from the floor, and finished with 15 points.
Rhode Island: The Rams improved to 13-91 against ranked opponents.
URI: plays Kansas at Orlando Classic on Thursday.
Nebraska: hosts Omaha on Friday.
URI last beat a ranked opponent on Dec. 21, 1998, when the Rams, led by Lamar Odom, beat No. 25 Utah at the Great Eight Classic.
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