Rhode Island looks for 14th straight win against VCU
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No. 22 Rhode Island keeps finding ways to win.
Its winning streak reached 13 games after trailing by as many as 13 points against Massachusetts on Tuesday night before prevailing 85-83.
The Rams (18-3, 10-0 Atlantic 10) are in the midst of their longest winning streak since 1939-40. Senior forward Jared Terrell had his 10th 20-point game of the season, leading the Rams with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
Their next challenger is Virginia Commonwealth (14-8, 6-3), which hosts Rhode Island on Friday. VCU has won its last three games and is 10-3 at home.
Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley envisions another difficult encounter because of his team's lofty status.
"I'm not sure if it's a fair expectation to just roll over people on a nightly basis," he said. "We've got a big target on us."
Of the narrow win over UMass, which cut the lead to 84-82 with 10 seconds left, Hurley said, "That's the value of having older players."
One of Hurley's youngest players -- sophomore guard Jeff Dowtin -- recorded his first career double-double with 19 points and a career-high 10 assists.
Seniors Andre Berry and E.C. Matthews scored 15 and 10 points, respectively. Berry made 6 of 8 shots from the field.
Rhode Island, which made 13 of its 16 field-goal attempts in the second half against UMass, has now won 10 straight road games against Atlantic 10 opponents and 18 in a row in conference play.
"People are giving us their best game," Hurley said. "This looked like a different UMass team than at Fordham (an 82-69 loss on Saturday). That's something we've got to get ourselves emotionally ready for.
"It's always a challenge to go on the road in any conference and win there. You've got to be tough. You've got to be resilient."
Rhode Island has to scheme for VCU senior forwards Justin Tillman and Khris Lane, each of whom provided a double-double in an 84-76 win over George Mason last Saturday.
Lane had a season-high 25 points and 12 rebounds. The fifth-year transfer from Longwood connected on 11 of 13 attempts from the field for VCU.
Tillman had 18 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. He was 7 of 14 from the floor.
Thanks to Tillman and Lane, VCU dominated the boards, 50-27. The 50 rebounds matched a season high set against Duquesne on Jan. 9. The team's 22 offensive rebounds were a season high. VCU outscored George Mason 25-4 on second-chance points.
"We want those extra possessions," VCU coach Mike Rhoades said. "We want to be greedy with those extra possessions. And, especially led by Justin, he just has a great, natural knack to go after the ball."
VCU comes into the game rested, with six days in between games, while Rhode Island is coming off two grueling games -- the narrow win over UMass preceded by a buzzer-beater win on a 3-pointer by Stanford Robinson against Duquesne last Saturday.
VCU is also playing its best basketball, leading for all but 92 seconds against George Mason.
Updated February 1, 2018