RICHMOND, Va. — Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley has come to VCU in the past with a young team and seen it get drummed.
He was happy to return the favor when he returned with the senior-laden and 22nd-ranked Rams on Friday night.
E.C. Matthews scored 18 points, Jared Terrell had 16 and URI beat VCU 81-68 for its 14th consecutive victory.
“I thought we were really, really sharp, particular our passing,” Hurley said. “We’re just a veteran team that took advantage of our experience. We out-seniored them, out-experienced them.”
Cyril Langevine added 12 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for the visiting Rams (19-3, 11-0 Atlantic 10) in a matchup of teams with the same nickname. The winning streak is the program’s longest since the 1939-40 Rams won 15 straight.
Rhode Island also stretched its road winning streak in conference games to 11, the longest such streak in program history.
“It’s a lot of things,” said Matthews, one of four seniors in the starting lineup. “Being resilient. The non-conference games we had earlier in the season is why we play the way we do now. Having older guys, we kind of set the tone.”
Justin Tillman scored 22 points to lead VCU (14-9, 6-4), which dropped out of a three-way tie for second place in the conference. Sean Mobley added 15, all in the first half. The home Rams trailed just 41-38 at halftime, but couldn’t overcome being beaten 47-31 on the boards and outscored 26-6 on second-chance points as URI gradually took control after halftime.
“We felt they were going to try to come out and bully us and control the game and come out hard from the start, so we tried to come out with energy,” Tillman said. “I thought we did that in the first half. … We kept letting them get second-chance rebounds and they were scoring off those.”
Rhode Island scored 13 of the first 20 points after halftime to open a 54-45 lead, its biggest of the game at that point. Consecutive baskets by VCU closed the gap to 54-49, but Rhode Island scored 10 of the next 15 points and VCU never got closer than six again.
The first half was played at a breakneck pace, with URI pulling away from a 27-all tie by scoring nine straight points. Mobley then hit three 3-pointers in a span of less than two minutes to keep VCU close.
Rhode Island: The Rams’ winning streak coincides with Matthews’ return from a broken wrist. In coach Dan Hurley’s favored four-guard lineup, Matthews, Terrell, Jeff Dowtin and Stanford Russell also make it difficult for even defensively disruptive teams to cause ball security issues. URI had just eight turnovers against VCU.
“It’s not me at all. It’s a mixture. We’ve got young guys, older guys. We’re just trying to make history and be better every game,” Matthews said.
VCU: Tillman was his usually effective self, but the Rams’ No. 2 scorer, freshman De’Riante Jenkins (13.1 points per game) managed just nine points, and No. 3 scorer Johnny Williams (10.2) had two. VCU also was sloppy too often with the ball, committing 14 turnovers that Rhode Island turned into 16 points.
Rhode Island has a week off before playing at home against Davidson next Friday night.
VCU plays at cross-town rival Richmond on Wednesday night.
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