Blake Francis had 13 points for Richmond (12-3, 2-0 Atlantic 10 Conference) as did Nick Sherod, who added five assists. Grant Golden scored 10 points with nine rebounds. Jacob Gilyard made two steals, tying him with Greg Beckwith at 227 for the most in Spiders history.
West Virginia took the lead for good midway through the first half and enjoyed a double-digit lead for most of the second with the Rams getting within seven with 7:18 remaining.
Rhode Island scored just 19 points in the first half, a season low for the team, and trailed by 11 at the break.
Tyrese Martin had 17 points for the Rams (8-5, 0-1). Jeff Dowtin added 13 points and Jacob Toppin 12. Fatts Russell, who came in as the A-10 leader at 20.3 points per game, made just 1 of 12 shots for three points.
Richmond has its best record through 15 games since 1987-88 (also 12-3) and beat Rhode Island on the road for the first time since 2012.
Richmond matches up against Saint Louis at home on Saturday. Rhode Island plays Davidson at home on Wednesday.