KINGSTON, R.I. (AP)—No. 15 Xavier hung on to avoid an upset at the hands of Rhode Island for one simple reason.
“We are a really good defensive team, that’s why we were able to win this game,” coach Sean Miller said after the Musketeers hung on for a 67-65 win Thursday night.
Derrick Brown had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Musketeers (14-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10), and C.J. Anderson had 11 points and seven rebounds.
“We were fortunate to win the game,” Miller said. “URI took us out of our rhythm.”
Xavier shot 38.9 percent from the field, its lowest since a 36.4 percentage in a 76-66 win over Cincinnati on Dec. 13.
The Musketeers, who held their last five opponents under 40 percent shooting from the floor, kept Rhode Island (11-6, 0-2) to 37.1 percent and out-rebounded the Rams 48-36.
“It’s tough to win a game like this when you are outrebounded,” said the Rams’ Jimmy Baron, who scored 19 points in Rhode Island’s first home loss this season. After finishing 0-for-7 from the field against Xavier last February, he was 7-17, including 5-11 from 3-point range.
Baron’s jumper with 3:51 to go gave the Rams their final lead of the night at 61-59, and Dante Jackson’s 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining put Xavier in front the rest of the way.
“Down the stretch it’s going to come down to a half-court game and we need to find guys in right position at the right time to score the basketball,” Baron said.
Kahiem Seawright’s jumper for Rhode Island with one minute to go in the first half sent the teams into intermission tied at 34.
Anderson’s surge put Xavier back in front 43-36.
Rhode Island regained the edge 50-48 on Delroy James’ 3-point shot from the corner with 9:54 remaining. Then Terrell Holloway hit a pair of free throws that tied it again at 50. Xavier’s biggest lead of the game at nine points came with 15:27 left in the second half.
James had 14 points for Rhode Island, and Keith Cothran added 11.
Rhode Island hasn’t beaten a nationally ranked opponent since a 70-63 win over No. 25 Utah on Dec. 2, 1998. Thursday’s loss was the Rams’ 15th consecutive defeat against ranked teams.
“We fought hard and fought long,” said Rams head coach Jim Baron, Jimmy Baron’s father.