But Davidson's only hope was to win the conference tournament - and Stephen Curry's alma mater did just that.
The Rams will now await their likely NCAA Tournament marching orders, having snapped the two-game losing streak that ended the regular season but without the championship they coveted.
Rhode Island is 22-10 ATS in their last 32 games as a favorite, and 7-2 ATS in their last nine neutral-site games.
Sparked by back-to-back threes from Dowtin and Jarvis Garrett, the Rams went on an 11-0 run to take a 56-52 lead capped off by step back three from Matthews with 3:43 to play.
Rhode Island would take that lead into the half. The Wildcats shot 38 percent for the game.
"Ball game! We dancin' baby!"
Manchester's Piccadilly Station Closed As Protesters Storm Tracks
Rail services through one of the UK's busiest train stations were halted this afternoon after protesters stormed onto the track. Virgin Trains said services running to and from the station may be cancelled, delayed or terminated until further notice.
CBS and Turner Sports executives say the 68 teams selected will be announced in the first 10 minutes of the show, and the entire bracket will be revealed in 45 minutes. The Wildcats played a similar role that URI was cast in past year - out of the NCAA Tournament at-large conversation and likely needing a win to earn a Big Dance invite. Davidson made six of its first seven shots and led by seven in the first half.
URI was led by E.C. Matthews, who poured in 20 points on 7 of 16 shooting from the field.
URI hit a season-high 14 shots from 3-point range in 31 attempts and had 19 offensive rebounds.
Sparked off the bench by Fatts Russell and guided to the finish by Jeff Dowtin, the Rams overcame the determined Hawks, 90-87, at Capital One Arena. "At this point I am a jumbled mess in terms of my mind", he said, just minutes after the Wildcats quieted the many Bonnies fans who had come to Chinatown. The lead changed hands six more times before the break, and neither team held an edge of more than three points.
The Wildcats trailed by one at halftime before Grady knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to open the second half.
Davidson's Peyton Aldridge was named the tournament's most outstanding player. URI is looking to become the first team in the conference since Saint Louis in 2012-13 to sweep both the regular-season and tournament titles.