December 8, 2023 

Sights and sounds from Providence-Rhode Island barnburner

Ocean State classic comes down to the final seconds

PROVIDENCE, RI — Following her team’s 51-50 victory over in-state rival Rhode Island, first-year Providence head coach Erin Batth took a breather in the locker room.

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“To be able to come and be a part of such a rivalry is a blessing in itself,” Batth said postgame. “I love basketball and this is what it’s all about. But I am like, ‘whoa!’ I was just laying down for a second…How exciting was that?”

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Fans from both schools packed into Alumni Hall on the campus of Providence College. A split crowd of locals and fans who took the 30 mile drive up from Kingston were cheering as their respective squads ran onto the court for warm-ups. Just before tip-off, Rhode Island governor Dan McKee was handed a commemorative basketball in recognition of the 54th meeting between the programs. Providence athletic director Steve Napolillo could be seen just behind the home team bench. The Ocean State showed out.

The game was not pretty. Both teams struggled with turnovers and execution on the offensive end. Shots from beyond the arc weren’t sinking. The Rams went 4-for-24 from three and the Friars weren’t much better at 4-for-15. Ultimately, Providence was able to hit key free throws down the stretch and gut out the victory.

“I thought they played harder than us,” said URI head coach Tammi Reiss. “I thought they wanted the game more than us. I really did. And so they ended up winning the game because they executed down the stretch and they played for each other, with each other. So it boiled down to that.”

By eking out a win at home, Providence improves to 1-0 against the Rams in the Erin Batth era. URI head coach Tammi Reiss, who took over the program in 2019, falls to 2-3 in the rivalry. During her tenure, the squads split four games of the rivalry series before Wednesday’s loss. Last season the Rams narrowly defeated Providence 74-72 in Kingston.

The performance of junior forward Olivia Olsen was a bright spot for Providence. In addition to a team-high 14 points, Olsen also added seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. She was leading by example by working hard on both sides of the court. At the end of a tense rivalry game, Olsen played disciplined defense down the stretch, swatting away URI’s attempt at a game-winner with a monster block. Despite some struggles, Batth was happy overall with her team’s effort.

“I really feel good about just our energy. I think we have a great sisterhood,” Batth told The Next.

Through nine non-conference games, Providence is 4-5 overall. Up next, the Friars head to New Haven to take on Ivy League opponent Yale. They’ll face Sacred Heart at home on Dec. 16 before traveling to Florida for the West Palm Beach Classic to finish out non-conference play against No. 10 Baylor and Kennesaw State. BIG EAST play kicks off for the Friars on Dec. 30 at Seton Hall.

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“I have not stopped my coaching,” Batth said. “I am still tough as all get out, but they have responded well with great attitudes…I love the BIG EAST. I’m so excited [for conference play] but good gracious with some teams in this conference…we really got to get our minds right for that, okay? But it’s one season at a time. Let’s [finish non-conference play] and then we’re gonna head off to the BIG EAST.”

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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