The Rhode Island Rams found themselves in the national top 25 this week following a 15-3 start. Checking in at #24 in the Associated Press poll and #23 in the USA Today Coaches poll, Rhode Island continued its stellar start with a 78-58 victory at Fordham Wednesday night to improve to 8-0 in Atlantic 10 play.
Rhode Island jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes and appeared poised to break away, but Fordham held tough, eventually tying things at 22 on Ivan Raut’s three-pointer with 5:14 left in the first half. However, Rhode Island capped the half on a 14-5 run and never looked back.
The visiting Rams pushed their led by double digits nearly the entire second half and led by as much as 21 in the final minutes.
Senior forward Andre Berry matched a personal best with 20 points to lead all scorers. Berry abused Fordham’s front line all night long, finishing 9-12 from the field. Rhode Island relied heavily upon Berry’s dominance in the paint as the team matched a season low with just 10 three-point attempts on the night.
“It was his night tonight,” head coach Dan Hurley said of Berry. “He’s got a really well-rounded skillset. He can find little gaps and he’s got great guards that he plays with that find him in those gaps. Andre’s just got a great feel for basketball.”
Fellow seniors Jared Terrell and Stanford Robinson joined Berry in double figures with 17 and 16 respectively. Terrell went a perfect 9-9 from the free throw line and accounted for two of Rhode Island’s three triples on the evening, with another five assists to his credit. Robinson matched a personal best with seven steals.
With the win, Rhode Island extends its winning streak to 11 consecutive games overall. It is the longest winning streak the program has enjoyed since an equal stretch spanning the 1946-47 and 1947-48 seasons. Only #3 Purdue (15 games) and #16 Saint Mary’s (14 games) currently own longer winning streaks at the Division I level.
Rhode Island now owns a 2.5 game lead on Davidson for the top spot in the Atlantic 10. With aspirations of a second consecutive league title and NCAA Tournament appearance come March, Hurley has praised his team’s consistent effort for getting it this far.
“These guys have created a great culture,” Hurley said of his team. “I’m just not sure how many teams in the country show up every single night and give themselves a chance to win every single night….We show up with intensity and focus. These guys are about winning, and they’ve created that culture.”
The Rams entered last season’s NCAA Tournament as an 11 seed and took down Creighton 84-72 in the first round before falling by just three to eventual Final Four participant Oregon in the Round of 32.
“I know that last year they really felt they could have won more than one,” Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer said of Rhode Island. “The fact that they are so defensive, they guard the arc so well, they get the right matchups and they can go as far as they want.”
Fordham was led by 17 points from senior guard Will Tavares while junior forward Prokop Slanina added 13. The Rams of Rose Hill play host to UMass this weekend while Rhode Island will look to keep things rolling against Duquesne.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.