No. 25 Rhode Island faces a stiff test Tuesday night when it visits a dangerous Valparaiso team that has played well through a challenging non-conference slate. The Rams rebounded from a 10-point loss to then-No. 1 Duke to get past Belmont 82-73 at home on Friday.
Hassan Martin led the way with a career-high 31 points on 14-of-20 shooting to help Rhode Island survive an off night for junior star E.C. Matthews, who was held to a season-low six points on 1-of-6. “My main thing was to take advantage of their size,” Martin told reporters. “. ... I‘m surrounded by scorers which gives me space to operate. I‘m comfortable with my back to the basket.” The Crusaders - who have a meeting with top-ranked Kentucky on the horizon - have won three straight, including victories over Alabama and BYU. Alec Peters had 23 points in a 79-73 win over Ball State on Sunday and the senior forward entered Monday ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (25.1).
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3
ABOUT RHODE ISLAND (5-1): Matthews, who missed almost all of last season following a torn ACL, might be showing some early signs of fatigue amid a busy stretch. He scored at least 17 points in his first four games before being held to a total of 15 over his last two contests, and the guard is 9-of-30 from the floor in the past three outings. Fellow junior Jarvis Garrett helped pick up the slack against Belmont with a season-high 23 points.
ABOUT VALPARAISO (6-1): Junior guard Lexus Williams had six steals in the win over Ball State while Jubril Adekoya and Shane Hammink recorded four apiece as Valparaiso produced 17 thefts - third-most in a single game in program history. “(The steals) are a credibility to playing hard,” Williams told reporters. “Just sticking to the game plan. ... Our bigs did a good job in the post and they were throwing it out to get steals and get in transition.” Hammink (16.1) joins Peters as the only other double-digit scorer for the Crusaders, who are shooting only 41 percent from the floor but are ninth nationally from the line (81 percent).
1. Peters led four players in double figures with 14 points as the Crusaders outlasted the Rams 58-55 last season in Kingston, R.I.
2. Rams F Kuran Iverson is averaging 13.3 points on 54.5 percent in his team’s four wins, and had just two points while going 1-of-4 from the field in the loss to Duke.
3. Peters is 58-of-62 at the line after going 11-of-12 in each of the last two games.
PREDICTION: Valparaiso 77, Rhode Island 75