Rhode Island didn’t slip while playing its first game as a Top 25 team in almost a decade.
The 25th-ranked Rams again look to maintain their spot in the poll and try for an eighth straight victory when they meet Georgia Southern in the finals of the Islander Invitational on Saturday in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Rhode Island (12-1) won 92-75 over Eastern Michigan on Friday night in the semifinals of the two-day tournament. It was the first game the Rams played as ranked team since November 1998. Rhode Island looks to improve to 13-1 for the first time since the 1946-47 squad opened 16-1.
“This was our first game as a ranked team, so it was important that we win it,” senior forward Will Daniels said.
Daniels and Jimmy Baron each had 18 points for the Rams, who shot a season-best 57.6 percent from the field and recorded 20 assists.
“Any time you can get 20 assists, then you know you’re doing a good job of moving the ball around,” said Rams coach Jim Baron, whose squad is among the nation’s top scoring teams averaging 82.7 points per contest. “We started to run, which is what we do best, and then we were sharing the ball.”
The Rams are averaging 87.1 points during their winning streak and topped the 90-point mark for the second time in their last three games. Rhode Island last won eight in a row from Dec. 21, 1991-Jan. 15, 1992.
“When you play a high potent team like that you have to keep scoring,” Eastern Michigan coach Charles Ramsey said.
Daniels, a 6-foot-8 senior, averages 18.2 points and reached 1,300 for his career Friday.
Rhode Island is part of strong Atlantic 10 Conference that features Dayton and Xavier - who were both ranked this season - and a talented Massachusetts team. The Rams, who have wins over Alabama-Birmingham, Providence and at Syracuse, look to win their second in-season tournament after taking the Glen Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla. last month.
The Rams, whose only loss came 76-72 at Boston College on Nov. 21, will face Georgia Southern for the first time.
The Eagles (9-2) reached the tournament finals after a 78-69 win over host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Friday’s other semifinal. Senior Louis Graham had 19 points for Georgia Southern, which shot 52.0 percent from the floor.
Graham, who averages 13.8 points, bounced back after scoring 14 combined in his two previous contests.
Georgia Southern, which returns two starters from last season’s 15-16 team, was picked by coaches to finish second South Division of the Southern Conference behind Davidson. The Eagles’ only losses have come at Florida State and to two-time defending national champion Florida.
Rhode Island will be the first ranked team Georgia Southern will face this season. The Eagles have lost their last four games versus ranked teams dating to the 1997-98 season.
“(Rhode Island is) in the top 25 now,” Eagles coach Jeff Price said. “They’re a deep, balanced and talented team. They’ve got really good experience and have played a great schedule.”