PROVIDENCE -- If you measure progress by wins, the Rhode Island men's basketball team has certainly made progress in coach Dan Hurley's second season.
After winning just eight games last season, the Rams picked matched last season's win total Wednesday night against Brown.
Senior guard Xavier Munford had his most efficient day night of the season with 25 points on just 18 shots and freshman E.C. Matthews scored 21 points to earn the Rams their first road win of the season with a 75-68 victory over the Bears at the Pizzitola Center.
"I'm excited about the win and I'm very excited about the performance," Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. "To pick up our eighth win with everything this young group has been through since the season started, I'm really proud of them and proud of where we're at."
"Obviously Matthews and Munford were fantastic," Brown coach Mike Martin said. "Those two caused problems for us, but I thought the kid (Rhody freshman Hassan Martin) was really a game changer, especially in the first half."
Rhode Island (8-6) led by as many as 20 points early in the second half thanks to the stellar play of Munford, Matthews and Martin (six blocks and nine rebounds), but Brown senior shooting guard Sean McGonagill, Tavon Blackmon and Norman Hobble shot the Bears back into the game.
McGonagill, who led his team with 24 points, scored seven straight points and then Hobbie made a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to just 10 with 6:33 left in the game.
Brown (6-6) cut the gap to just two with 3:16 left on a Blackmon 3-pointer and Brown nearly took the lead, but Blackmon's left-win 3-pointer didn't fall and the Bears were outscored 8-2 over the final 80 seconds.
"We settled down in the second half by limiting our turnovers," Martin said. "We made a few shots, but the thing we did in the second half to get back into the game was string together some stops. Congratulations to the University of Rhode Island, we're disappointed with the loss."
Brown couldn't get stops in the first half because the Bears’ man-to-man defense had no answer for Matthews and Munford. Matthews made three of his four 3-pointers and five of his seven shots in the opening half, while Munford scored 13 points in the opening 20 minutes.
Steven Speith buried a 3-pointer to put the Bears ahead and the home side continued to lead the game until McGonagill fouled Matthews shooting a corner 3-pointer. The freshman made the shot and helped URI go on a 25-8 run over the final 6:30.
"My mental game is much better right now," Matthews said of his career after just 14 games. "I think the more games I play the better I get."
Rhode Island stretched the lead all the way to 24 early in the second half on a Martin layup before the Bears made a spirited comeback and nearly took down Rhode Island for the second time in as many tries at the Pizzitola Center.
"We have a lot of one-on-one players on our team. A lot of athletic players who can go by their man and create something," Munford said.