WASHINGTON (AP) – Jeff Dowtin scored 18 points, Jared Terrell added 16 points and No. 25 Rhode Island survived a challenge from VCU 76-67 Friday in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
Top-seeded Rhode Island (24-6) snapped a two-game slide as it began its tournament defense.
Justin Tillman had 23 points and 15 rebounds for eighth-seeded VCU (18-15), which lost to Rhode Island in the conference tournament for the second consecutive season.
It wasn’t an easy afternoon for Rhode Island, which won its first 13 Atlantic 10 games before dropping three of its last five regular-season contests. After building a 9-point lead in the first 11 minutes, Rhode Island held a 36-33 edge at the break.
VCU led 59-58 when Dowtin hit a 3-pointer to put Rhode Island ahead for good with more than five minutes to play. He added another basket and a vital rebound moments later to help keep VCU from reclaiming the lead.
Stanford Robinson’s 3-pointer with 2:34 remaining pushed Rhode Island’s advantage to 66-59. VCU never cut the margin to less than 5 the rest of the way.
Story continues below gallery.Big Picture:
Rhode Island: Coach Dan Hurley’s team still has a chance to modestly improve its seeding over the weekend as it chases its second consecutive Atlantic 10 title.
Virginia Commonwealth: The Rams’ NCAA tournament hopes, fairly slim since early in the season, are gone. It ends VCU’s seven-year NCAA tournament streak, which began with a Final Four run in 2011.
Rhode Island: The Rams will meet either fourth-seeded Saint Joseph’s or fifth-seeded George Mason in the semifinals. Saint Joseph’s drubbed Rhode Island 78-48 on Feb. 27, while the Rams handled George Mason 83-64 in their conference opener Dec. 30.
Virginia Commonwealth: The season could be over for the Rams, who are unlikely to land an NIT berth.
Tournament Tweets – #MarchHoops
MARCH HOOPS: Eyewitness Sports is following PC and URI every step of the way with live team coverage. Mark Dondero will have live reports from Madison Square Garden where the Friars are playing in The Big East Tournament. Ruthie Polinsky will be in Washington, D.C. where the Rams are in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.