What It Means:
Rhody closes out its non-conference slate with a thrilling 74-70 victory at LSU. The Rams enter the 18-game Atlantic 10 schedule with a 9-6 overall record.
URI opened the game up with a hot shooting hand, connecting on 55.6% from the floor in the opening 20:00. It was the best shooting mark in a single half this season.
After LSU went up 17-11 with 9:52 left in the first, Rhody went on a 13-0 run over the next 3:25, capped by a Gilvydas Biruta 3-pointer. The Rams led 36-30 at the break.
Rhode Island did not slow up to start the second half, taking its largest lead of the game - 12 points - after a Biruta jumper made it 45-33 with 15:55 left in regulation.
LSU would respond, outscoring URI 19-6 over the next six minutes, taking a 52-51 lead with 9:57 to go. There were three ties and two lead changes down the stretch, but a Xavier Munford with 6:16 left gave Rhody the lead for good.
The Rams hit 10-of-12 from the charity stripe over the last five minutes, sealing the victory - the team's second consecutive road win.
Inside the Box Score and Beyond:
* Three Rams reached double figures, led by E.C. Matthews' 21 points. The freshman guard was 6-of-12 from the floor, including 2-for-3 from the perimeter and 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. He also added four assists.
* Gilvydas Biruta put forth his best game in a Rhody uniform, with 19 points and a career-best 14 rebounds (6 offensive/8 defensive). Biruta saw a season-high 36 minutes of action and connected on 8-of-13 from the floor (2-2 3FG).
* Xavier Munford added 17 points and six rebounds in 38 minutes of action. The 6-2 guard played a great game on the defensive end, blocking two shots and notching two steals.
* The Rams dominated the Tigers on the glass, outrebounding the highly touted front line, 46-32.
* Jarelle Reischel gave the team a spark in the first half, coming off the bench to knock two big jumpers from the deep corner. He finished with five points and three rebounds. Both teams' had nine points from their reserves on the day.
Head coach Dan Hurley: "This was a great win. LSU is a really talented, well-coached team. We had a stretch where we struggled against their pressure, but our team had great resolve. The tough road schedule we have played so far helped us tonight. We are thrilled to be a nine-win team."
Gilvydas was great around the basket tonight and hit two big 3-pointers for us - 14 rebounds as well. He was locked in. Sometimes players who sit out have these expectations - internal or external. Our theme for him the last week was just relax, have fun, and play.
Junior forward Gilvydas Biruta: "I just listened to Coach Hurley. He encouraged me to let the game come to me. I just went out there and played happy."
To get two wins on the road like these really gives us a confidence boost heading into conference play."
Freshman guard E.C. Matthews: "You know it is a big game, but as a team, we treated this like every other game. The coaching staff put together a gameplan and we followed it and played our hardest for them."
Rhode Island will open up its 2014 Atlantic 10 conference slate on Tuesday night (Jan. 7) at home against Saint Louis.
Game time at the Alex and Ani Court at the Thomas M. Ryan Center is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen live nationally on the CBS Sports Network. Tom McCarthy and Chris Walker will have the broadcast call.
This - and every Rhody men's basketball game - can be heard live on the University of Rhode Island Radio Network, powered by Beltone Hearing Aid Centers. Tune into B101 (101.5 FM) to hear Steve McDonald and Don Kaull provide the call. The pre-game show begins at 6:30 p.m.