Rhode Island-Valparaiso Preview
No. 23 Rhode Island extended its strong start Saturday night -- and didn't even do it on the basketball court.
Dan Hurley's players, who won their only game last week -- over Belmont -- and should remain ranked when the new poll comes out Monday, served dinner and prepared beds at the Providence Rescue Mission, according to a post on the team's Twitter account.
It was another quality effort by a team off to a 5-1 start, the only loss to then-No. 1 Duke.
Now, it's back to work -- and this will be a test for the Rams.
Rhode Island visits Valparaiso (6-1) on Tuesday and then has its always tough local rivalry game against Providence at the Dunkin' Donuts Center -- the Friars' home floor -- Saturday.
Hassan Martin scored 34 points and Jarvis Garrett, over his neck injury suffered against Cincinnati in the semifinal of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, added 23 in the win over Belmont, the preseason favorite in the Ohio Valley Conference.
"Once I got myself going I just didn't stop," Martin said after going 14-for-20 from the floor and adding five rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. "That's why I had that type of game."
Martin will be needed against Valparaiso, which beat Ball State 79-73 at home Sunday and now hosts a ranked team for the first time in six years.
The Crusaders came off the road and ran up 17 steals while forcing 23 turnovers and overcoming a slow start to win against Ball State.
"We talked about a nine-day road trip and the challenges that presents," Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said after Sunday's game. "Fatigue, just the normal human tendency maybe after a couple big wins to maybe let up a little bit. I thought our energy lacked a little bit (in the first half), but we were playing hard."
Alec Peters scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds to key Sunday's win and continue his torrid start. Through seven games, he is averaging 25.1 points and 9.1 rebounds while Shane Hammink is at 16.1 and 5.6 per game.
The Rams have four starters scoring in double figures, led by Martin at 16.5 points per game and E.C. Matthews at 15.5. Jared Terrell is averaging 14.3 points and Kuran Iverson 11.0 points and 6.2 rebounds. Martin leads with 7.0 rebounds while Garrett has a team-high 27 assists and 12 turnovers.
Rhode Island ended a stretch of five games in 10 days with the loss to Duke, which followed a win over then-No. 24 Cincinnati the previous night.
The win over Belmont, which was missing its best player, Evan Bradds, featured the Rams with a 30- and 20-point scorer in the same game for the first time in almost two years.