Sophomores E.C. Matthews, Hassan Martin lead Rhode Island past Richmond (VIDEO)

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Having won four straight games Rhode Island entered Sunday’s contest at Richmond a win away from moving into a tie for first in the Atlantic 10 with No. 18 VCU. Thanks to the performances put forth by sophomores E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin the Rams won their fifth straight game, beating the Spiders 79-74.

Matthews scored 26 points and grabbed five rebounds, and Martin posted another double as he accounted for 16 points and 16 rebounds. Guard T.J. Buchanan, who shot 7-for-8 from the foul line over the last 2:19, added 15 for the Rams who are now 8-2 in conference play. While URI struggled from the foul line, shooting 16-for-27 in the second half, they did shoot 56 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes. That gave them the separation needed to hold on despite the efforts of Richmond’s Kendall Anthony.

Anthony scored a game-high 28 points, with Terry Allen adding 19 before fouling out late in the second half. Unfortunately for Chris Mooney’s team this game followed a familiar theme for them, as they were able to remain close but could not make the plays needed to win a close game. Richmond has been involved in 11 games decided by five points or less this season, and they’re 3-8 in such contests.

What also hurt Richmond was the loss of big man Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, who left the game in the first half after taking a shot to the face. Nelson-Ododa didn’t return to the game after going to the locker room, and his absence did not help matters for a team that’s struggled in the rebounding department all season long.

Foul shooting and turnovers are areas that Rhode Island will have to clean up if they’re to make a run at winning the Atlantic 10, but with players such as Matthews and Martin they have the pieces needed to contend. A team many figured was a year away from contending before the season began, the future is now for Dan Hurley’s Rams.