Rhode Island, our pick to win the Atlantic 10 this season, opened its 2015-16 with a scary sight on Friday night.
Star junior E.C. Matthews went down near the 10:40 mark of the first half of the team’s home game against American. As Matthews was driving the lane in transition, he planted his right leg and crumpled to the floor after being bumped by a defender. Matthews had to be carried off the court.
Rhode Island coach Danny Hurley told CBS Sports on Friday night that Matthews told him he “wasn’t sure if he heard a pop” in his knee.
“It’s probably 50/50,” Hurley told CBS Sports, re: odds of the injury ending Matthews’ season. “From talking to the trainers and medical people, they don’t want to give you anything. I couldn’t really tell. The kid wasn’t in awful spirits.”
A school official told CBS Sports on Friday night that Matthews, one of the better players in college basketball, will have testing done Saturday morning at South County Hospital. After his injury, Matthews stayed put inside the training room at the Ryan Center. Rhode Island went on to win 65-42.
“It could be a sprain, it could be a partial tear — everything’s in play,” Hurley said. “The knee wasn’t blowing up. It’s hard to tell. I do think there’s some hope here that he’ll be OK. If it … is the ACL, obviously, it hurts and he’d lose a year. But the ACL [injury] is not the end of the world anymore.”
Matthews — who has been considered by many in the business to be a future NBA pick — left the Ryan Center on crutches, according to URI sports information director Mike Laprey. Matthews, who did not score Friday night, entered the game with 999 career points. His injury came on a move toward the hoop that could have pushed him past the 1,000 plateau.
When Rhode Island signed Matthews four years ago, when he was a four-star recruit, it was a program-changing event for the Rams. Hurley said if the MRI comes back with confirmation of severe, season-ending ligament damage, “That would emotionally be a very hard thing for us because of what the kid means to us.”
A silver lining in this is that the injury wasn’t non-contact.
“It wasn’t like when you see a guy making a cut and go down,” Hurley said. “He was engaged with a guy on American who belly-bumped him and he went down.”
CBS Sports will update this story and the nature of Matthews’ injury as more information becomes available on Saturday.