No. 24 Rhode Island cruises to 78-58 win at Fordham
By MATT SUGAM
NEW YORK (AP) Rhode Island won't be satisfied just to make it back to the NCAA Tournament this year. Riding the school's longest winning streak in seven decades, the Rams are intent on making a deep run in March.
"This senior group, we understand what it's going to take to go deep in the tournament, so I think it's just our mindset and what the coaches instill in us every day," Stan Robinson said. "We try to find a couple things from each team to keep the fire going and make us mad and just playing with anger. We just try not to let up."
Robinson added 16 points, seven steals and six rebounds for the newly ranked Rams (16-3, 8-0 Atlantic 10), who moved into the AP Top 25 this week for the first time since November 2016. Rhode Island has won 11 straight games for the first time in 70 years.
Rhode Island beat Creighton in last year's NCAA Tournament before losing 75-72 to No. 3 seed Oregon, which advanced to the Final Four.
"I know that last year they felt, meaning Rhode Island, felt they could have won more than one," Fordham coach Jeff Neubauer said. "And when I say that, the fact that they are so defensive, they guard so well, they guard the arc so well, they get the right matchups - they can go as far as they want."
Rhode Island jumped out to an 8-0 lead 2:34 into the game after Berry assisted on a 3-pointer by E.C. Matthews. Fordham (6-14, 1-7) tied it at 22 with 5:14 left in the first half after back-to-back 3s by Ivan Raut.
URI answered with another 8-0 run, capped by Berry's layup off a pass from Fatts Russell, before taking a 36-27 lead into halftime.
Berry, from nearby West Hempstead, said it felt good to have such a strong performance with a slew of fans on hand - even though this was just another game. But the 6-foot-8, 275-pound forward isn't just another big man.
"He's got a really well-rounded skill set," Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. "Great hands, really good feet, can pass the ball, make a 15-footer. He's got a touch on the short rolls in the paint. He's got a knack kind of like a slow tight end. ... He can find little gaps and he's got great guards that can find him in those gaps. Dre's just got a great feel for basketball."
Rhode Island remained in control to start the second half, opening a 15-point advantage by the first media timeout. URI led by as many as 21.
"These guys have created just a great culture," Hurley said. "I just think we show up every night. We show up with intensity, with focus, and these guys are about winning and they've created that culture."
Fordham, also nicknamed the Rams, was led by Will Tavares, who had 17 points and 13 assists. Proko Slanina added 13 points.
Rhode Island: Sitting atop the Atlantic 10, the Rams extended the best start to conference play in school history.
Fordham: While they looked good at times against a Top 25 opponent, these Rams continued to struggle overall. After a two-game road trip followed by hosting a ranked team, Fordham needs to get back in the win column soon if it plans to climb out of the A-10 basement.
STEALING THE SHOW
Robinson once again tied Rhode Island's school record for steals with seven. He is the only player to do it twice - he also had seven steals in the season opener vs. UNC Asheville.
Rhode Island: Hosts Duquesne in a Saturday matinee.
Fordham: Hosts UMass on Saturday afternoon.
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Updated January 25, 2018