Rhode Island built a 30-15 advantage with 4:42 remaining De-Rbefore halftime before VCU closed the half on a 13-5 run. Martin started the second half with a 3-pointer, Dowtin made a layup and Russell a jump shot to extend the lead to 14.
Marcus Santos-Silva's layup with 6:46 left brought VCU within 51-50 after a 20-6 run, but VCU went scoreless in the last 2-1/2 minutes and Rhode Island pulled away.
VCU (12-4, 2-1), which earned five votes in the AP Men's Top 25 poll, had its three-game win streak come to an end.
De'Riante Jenkins scored 14 points and Santos-Silva and Marcus Evans each scored 11 for VCU.