The Ryan Center: Home of the University of Rhode Island Rams

As we navigate this new – and temporary – reality, we’re coping with serious issues — beginning with health and cascading to the economy and other facets of life. Live sports usually offer a refuge in times of uncertainty but right now the games, too, are shelved.

In light of this, YurView is going to its shelves, the archive, to dust off and replay some of Rhode Island’s signature games through the years.

We begin this Saturday at 2pm on YurView with the end of an era and the unveiling of a new one as the last game in historic Keaney Gym and first game in the Ryan Center will be shown back-to-back.

Jim Baron was URI Head Coach from 2001-2012

In the first one, Jim Baron, in his first season as Rhode Island’s head coach, does battle with a collection of players, many of whom he recruited and brought to an NCAA tournament two years earlier at St. Bonaventure. The final of Rhode Island’s 325 wins at Keaney Gym came courtesy of an 80-72 victory by Baron and the Rams over his former team, which included future Celtic J.R. Bremer. Rhode Island would frustrate Bremer throughout the night and ride contributions up and down the lineup as it sealed the final “W “in its cozy confines. The last point at Keaney — a Dinno Daniels free throw.

Keaney Gym was named after Frank Keaney and built in 1953

I’ll forever remember walking up the ramps in Keaney on the way to my seat as a kid, seeing competitive and even WWE-esque matchups against Temple (looking at you Ramon Rivas), and ballboy duties for the ’88-’89 team. We’ll talk much more about the Keaney nostalgia this weekend, but re-watching this one will give you all the feels, as the kids say… or at least as they said back in 2018.

Just eight short months later Rhode Island opened play in its new state-of-the-art Ryan Center, complete with – wait for it – 100% chair backs (no more Keaney bench seating), luxury suites and other amenities. The first game was a thriller, played before 5,785 fans against the then Pac-10’s (not Pac 12) University of Southern California. Freshman Jon Clark scored the first ever Ryan Center point – from the charity stripe – while Dustin Hellenga scored the first bucket of that game off a fast break feed from point guard Howard Smith. Hellenga, as you may remember, would also score the last bucket that day.

The game was competitive throughout and, with the score knotted at 67 and 28 seconds remaining, USC sophomore sensation Errick Craven pierced down the left side for a downhill drive. He was met by Rhody freshman Dawan Robinson, who walled up and made an outstanding block to force overtime.

It was nip and tuck through the OT period as the Rams found themselves with the ball late. After a near turnover, Dustin Hellenga (who played his tail off all game) worked his way to the left side short corner, elevating for a twisting contested floater with 2.2 seconds that found nothing but the bottom of the net.

A scene reminiscent of the Cal Play to Beat the Band incident ensued as some players, cheerleaders and others encroached on the court in celebration. But no timeout was called. USC raced the ball up the court and Desmon Farmer drilled what looked to be a game winning three-pointer from the left wing as time expired. The ruling on the court was a made bucket.

However, the NCAA implemented monitor review that year. Because the game was televised, referee Joe DeMayo and his crew went to the monitors to confirm the shot was good. Replay clearly showed the ball still in Farmer’s palm, the clock at all zeroes, and the red light illuminated behind the board. The result: an improbable 73-71 overtime win for the Rams, marking the first ever win in the Ryan Center and ushering in, with fanfare, a new era.

Join us Saturday afternoon.

Ram Rewind Doubleheader, Saturday April 18th

2pm URI vs. St. Bonaventure (3/2/02)

4pm URI vs. USC (11/26/02)

YurView, New England Channel 4