KINGSTON, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley felt the key to defeating Belmont was to limit the Bruins’ proficiency from beyond the 3-point arc.
The 23rd-ranked Rams held the Bruins to 18.5 percent shooting (5 of 27) from 3-point range and posted an 82-73 victory Friday night.
“The plan tonight was to keep them to five 3s or less and keep them under 25 percent,” Hurley said. “We felt like they wouldn’t be able to score enough 2s to beat us if we just eliminated that 3-point line.
“We were willing to give up some things around the basket because they’re such a lethal, 3-point shooting team. We were willing to trade 2s with them and felt the only way we could lose was if they made 3.”
Hassan Martin paced the Rams (5-1) with a career-high 31 points while Jarvis Garrett added a season-high 23. Garrett also matched his career-high for 3-pointers with four.
Martin shot a blistering 70 percent (14 of 20) from the field.
“Hassan was a monster,” Hurley said.
The Bruins (1-3), who played without leading scorer Evan Bradds (concussion), didn’t have an answer for Martin.
“My main thing was to take advantage of their size,” Martin said. “I was looking forward to the matchup with Bradds. But once I got myself going I just didn’t stop.
“I’m surrounded by scorers which gives me space to operate. I’m comfortable with my back to the basket.”
Nick Smith led Belmont with 17 points while Dylan Windler contributed a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Rhode Island led by as many as 20 points early in the second half before Windler led a rally that pulled the Bruins within 58-52.
Martin blunted that rally by scoring eight points during an 11-5 run.
“If you’re not in a Power 5 conference these are the type of nonconference games you have to play,” Hurley said. “You have to take risks. You have to play games against people that have the potential to make the (NCAA) Tournament.”
Belmont: The Bruins have won more than 20 games and earned a postseason tournament berth in 10 of the last 11 years. They began the season as one of only seven non-Power 5 programs to earn national Top 25 poll votes and post a Top 100 RPI in each of the last six seasons.
Rhode Island: After splitting two games against ranked teams (including then-No. 1 Duke) in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, the Thanksgiving Day break was a welcome respite for the Rams who had played five games in 10 days. No Ram needed the break more than E.C. Matthews, who underwent surgery early last season to repair a torn ACL and played on consecutive days for the first time in 20 months in the Tip-Off Tournament.
POLL IMPLICATIONS: By defeating a quality, mid-major school, Rhode Island ensured it should remain in the Top 25 for a fifth consecutive week.
STAT OF THE NIGHT: Belmont stepped on the Ryan Center court shooting 44.2 percent (80 of 181) from beyond the 3-point arc. But Rhode Island’s man-to-man defense held the Bruins to 18.5 percent (5 of 27) from 3-point range.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: Martin flashed his athletic ability early in the first half when he flipped the ball over his head, off the glass and in the basket.
STAR WATCH: Smith had the thankless task of making his first start in place of Bradds, who was sidelined with a concussion. Smith scored 17 points, one shy of his career high, and shot 50 percent from the field (5 of 10).
TURNING POINT: The Bruins had reduced what was a 20-point deficit to 58-52 with 12:04 remaining. Martin then took control of the game and scored eight points that keyed an 11-5 Rhode Island run for a 69-57 lead. Seven points was the closest Belmont would get after that run.
LETDOWN: Matthews began play as Rhode Island’s leading scorer (17.4, but he experienced a rare off night by scoring six points.
The Bruins, who host Lipscomb on Nov. 29, still have seven nonconference games on their schedule before they play their first Ohio Valley Conference game Dec. 31 against Austin Peay. How they fare in this portion of their schedule may serve as an indication of their chances of winning the conference title.
The Rams, who are ranked for a fourth consecutive week for only the third time since the AP poll was instituted in 1949, face three severe tests when they play road games at Valparaiso and in-state rival Providence before returning home Dec. 6 against Old Dominion.
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