SOUTH KINGSTOWN - Friday’s win will not make it into any art galleries but it will have a place in the record books.
The University of Rhode Island women’s basketball team waded through a low-scoring slog to beat Boston University 46-40 at the Ryan Center for the first postseason tournament victory in school history.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a game where we’ve shot that poorly. But then Boston U. shot that poorly, too,” URI coach Tammi Reiss said. “To get 75 shots is really, really good. To make 17 of them is not so good. But you know what? I don’t care because it’s March Madness and you survive and advance.”
URI will host A-10 foe Richmond in a second-round game on Monday at 6 p.m.
The Rams had lost their only previous WNIT game last year. The lone NCAA Tournament appearance in program history also ended in defeat.
It’s the team whose name was all over the record book already that has broken through. Most wins in program history, first A-10 regular season championship and now this.
“It means a lot. It’s great,” Mayé Touré said. “Like I always say, it’s just one more game. We really wanted to win this one. It’s one down and we’ve got more to go.”
URI and BU both lost in their conference tournaments almost two weeks ago, and the rust was evident. Thanks to a major advantage in turnover margin, the Rams took 75 shots and made only 17 of them. The 23 percent mark was a season low. But their defense forced a whopping 25 turnovers, and the Terriers struggled mightily from the field as well, shooting just 28 percent and making only one 3-pointer. URI’s nine turnovers were a season-best.
“The better defensive team won,” Reiss said. “That’s what type of game it was. It’s March. You’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to win.”
The teams each made just one of their first 13 shots in the opening quarter in a sign of things to come. URI managed to get the early lead but then scored only six points in the second quarter. BU led 19-17 at halftime.
A strong third quarter allowed the Rams to regain the lead. Sophie Phillips hit a 3-pointer and Tenin Magassa scored inside to spark an 11-2 run. The last three buckets of the surge came after offensive rebounds.
One more spurt in the fourth quarter finished the job. After the Terriers worked their way within four points, Magassa scored in the paint and Dolly Cairns stole the ensuing inbounds pass, converting it to a quick layup. BU made just one more field goal.
“I thought we were a little bit rusty from the A-10 tournament,” Reiss said. “I’m really, really proud of the squad for being disciplined in the second half, for defending, and for rebounding. Defense and rebounds were going to win this game.”
Magassa led URI with 12 points and eight rebounds. Touré added eight points, and Anaelle Dutat had 11 rebounds.
Beyond the history involved, the win represents a chance to find a springboard into next season. The URI coaching staff did some research and found a number of examples of teams that parlayed WNIT success into an NCAA Tournament bid the next year.
“I told them all week that this is really important, especially our younger kids coming back next year,” Reiss said. “We did a little graphic of all the teams that won the WNIT or were the runner-up and that next year, they were all in the NCAA. It was the catapult that got them there. So the young ones, to get this flavor of postseason play, it’s extremely important.”
And it’s also an opportunity to keep a special season going.
“It was kind of hard to recover after the A-10. For three or four days, there was a different energy on the team,” Touré said. “But then we regrouped, we talked with each other and the coaches. We have another goal to achieve right now and that’s what matters.”
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