Rhode Island looks to extend win streak against Davidson

No. 18 Rhode Island enters its home game against Davidson on Friday with its highest ranking in school history, two spots above its previous best spot dating to the 1948-49 season.

The Rams (19-3, 11-0 Atlantic 10) reached No. 20 two different times in the 1997-98 season, when they advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

They are on a 14-game winning streak, their longest since the 1939-40 season. Rhode Island has also achieved a school-record 19 straight victories over Atlantic 10 opponents.

Only No. 11 Saint Mary’s, which had won 18 in a row heading into Thursday’s game against Loyola Maryland, has longer current winning streak than Rhode Island.

Rhode Island had the week off after cruising to an 81-68 win at Virginia Commonwealth last Friday. Unlike four of the previous six games, in which the Rams had to erase early deficits, they built a lead in the first half and were never threatened in the second half.

In their previous game, Massachusetts built a 13-point lead within the first eight minutes of the game before Rhode Island rallied with an 85-83 escape on the road.

“This is how most conference games get played,” Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said of the close encounters. “They’re typically close games. You’re not always going to run away from your opponents, especially when you’re playing every two or three days and these teams know each other real well.”

Hurley has addressed the slow starts with his team.

“We’d rather not start like that,” said Rhode Island senior guard Jared Terrell, who is the 12th-leading career scorer in school history with 1,577 points. “We’d rather start off fast and get going. To be able to get down, dig down and get back up, it just shows what our character is like.”

Terrell had 16 points against VCU and fellow seniors E.C. Matthews (18 points) and Stanford Robinson (nine points, six steals, five rebounds and five assists) stood out as well.

Sophomore forward Cyril Langevine pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds. He also had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.

Davidson (13-9, 8-3) is coming off a 91-62 win over visiting St. Joseph’s. The Wildcats have won three consecutive games and eight of their last 10 games to move into second place in the conference.

Senior forward Peyton Aldridge had 32 points against St. Joseph’s, including 29 in the first half, when he outscored the Hawks (who had 28 points at intermission). Aldridge made five 3-pointers and also grabbed nine rebounds.

The performance was reminiscent of when former Davidson guard Stephen Curry, the two-time NBA MVP of the Golden State Warriors, outscored Chattanooga 27-26 in the first half of a 2008 game.

“For Peyton to be talked about on the same sentence with Steph is something he has earned,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said.

In addition to Aldridge’s play, the reason for Davidson’s emergence of late is McKillop’s decision to play more 2-3 zone defense instead of man-to-man, which he used primarily early in the season.

“We were struggling to keep people from beating us and we were struggling playing man at about the 28th minute and then they were picking us apart,” said McKillop. “We didn’t rest in zone. It’s a matter of rhythm — how many shots you are giving up, how many fouls you are giving, the kind of shots you are giving up.”

Only one opponent (St. Bonaventure) out of the last 10 games has scored more than 70 points. Two of them, George Washington and Fordham, each scored only 45 points in losses to the Wildcats.