EditorsNote: Added Saint Joseph’s as next opponent
Jeff Dowtin scored 18 points and sparked a closing spurt as No. 25 Rhode Island topped VCU 76-67 Friday in an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament quarterfinal at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Rhode Island advances to face Saint Joseph’s, which routed George Mason 68-49 later Friday afternoon, in a Saturday semifinal. But it wasn’t easy.
VCU’s Justin Tillman recorded his 18th straight double-double with 23 points and 15 rebounds, and kept his team close deep into the second half.
Rhode Island (24-6) arrived at the tournament as the No. 1 seed for the first time, after dominating the A-10 regular season. Coach Danny Hurley’s team won their first 11 conference games and didn’t suffer back-to-back losses until the final two games of the regular season.
Rhode Island beat VCU 81-68 in the regular season, controlling the backboards and benefitting from 26 second-chance points. They found themselves in a much tighter game late in the second half against VCU on Friday.
Jonathan Williams hit a pair of free throws to give VCU (18-15) a 59-58 lead with 6:38 to play. Dowtin answered for Rhode Island as he ignited an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer and a difficult, running floater to give Rhode Island a cushion going into the final minutes.
Stanford Robinson got free for an easy layup off an inbounds play, and Rhode Island went eight for eight from the foul line in the final 51 seconds to hold off VCU.
Jared Terrell added 16 points, and E.C. Matthews and Fatts Russell each finished with 11 points for Rhode Island.
Russell drained a deep 3-pointer as time expired in a back-and-forth first half, sending the Rams into the locker room with a 36-33 lead.
VCU was up and down throughout conference play, but did finish with two straight wins to close out the regular season.
De’Riante Jenkins finished with 16 points, and Issac Vann added 10 points for VCU.
—Field Level Media