Red-hot Rhode Island knocks off Creighton
SACRAMENTO -- Hassan Martin powered his way inside for a basket, turned toward the crowd and flexed for the Rhode Island band.
It was still early in the second half, but it was already clear that the Rams would not go down without a fight in their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999.
Jeff Dowtin scored 23 points to help 11th-seeded Rhode Island upset sixth-seeded Creighton 84-72 in a Midwest Regional first-round game Friday at the Golden 1 Center.
Kuran Iverson added 17 points for the Rams (25-9), who will play third-seeded Oregon in a second-round game Sunday for the right to go to the Sweet 16. E.C. Matthews posted 16 points and seven rebounds. Martin had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Marcus Foster and Ronnie Harrell Jr. scored 15 points apiece for Creighton (25-10), which lost nine of 16 after point guard Maurice Watson Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury. Khyri Thomas had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Rhode Island outscored Creighton 11-4 over the first seven minutes as both teams struggled to get into a rhythm offensively. The Rams went up 15-8 on a jumper by Iverson before the Bluejays came back to tie the game on a 3-pointer by Cole Huff.
The Rams quickly reclaimed the lead on a jumper by Martin. They went up 28-21 on a 3-pointer by Iverson, extended the lead to nine on a basket by Jared Terrell and carried a 33-26 advantage into the locker room at the break.
Rhode Island stretched its lead to 11 on a layup by Terrell early in the second half. The Rams matched that lead on a few more occasions over the next several minutes, but the Bluejays demonstrated some resiliency, answering with a basket each time.
Creighton cut the deficit to six on a three-point play by Harrell with just under 13 minutes remaining. Hundreds of Creighton fans climbed to their feet, urging the Bluejays to make a stop at the defensive end, but the Rams quickly pushed their lead back to double digits.