Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The NIT Season Tip-Off continues on Tuesday, as the Rhode Island Rams tangle with the fifth-ranked Arizona Wildcats. The winner advances to next week's semifinal round in New York City.
Both teams were in action on Monday night, with Rhode Island slipping past Division II power Metropolitan State (66-63), and Arizona blasting Fairleigh Dickinson (100-50).
URI improved to 3-1 on the season, although Metro State counts the games played in this event as exhibitions. The Rams, under the direction of first- year head coach Dan Hurley, opened the campaign with a 97-77 win over Maine, but were then routed themselves at SMU three days later, 89-58. A 72-59 victory over visiting North Carolina A&T last Friday had the team feeling better about itself, and then came Monday's narrow triumph over the Roadrunners.
Arizona scored an even 100 points in giving head coach Sean Miller his 100th victory at the school, as the team completely dominated the Knights of FDU on Monday night. It was the fourth win in as many chances for the Wildcats this season, three of which have taken place on their home floor. UA posted victories against three California-based schools prior to last night's win, as Cal Poly (73-62), Long Beach State (91-57) and San Diego State (69-60) all fell victim to Miller's crew.
Arizona owns a 2-0 lead in the all-time series with Rhode Island.
It wasn't pretty, but the Rams survived Monday's meeting with Metro State by shooting 42.9 percent from the floor, which included an 8-of-17 showing from 3-point range. A 42-27 advantage on the glass certainly helped matters, helping mask the fact that the Rams committed 16 turnovers. Trailing by 10 points at the break, URI battled back by holding the Roadrunners to only 23 points in the second half. Xavier Munford and E.C. Matthews scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds apiece for coach Hurley's squad, while Munford and Biggie Minnis each handed out five assists.
Arizona put six players in double figures on Monday night against FDU, as the host team scored twice as many points as its overmatched opponent. Gabe York poured in 20 points, Nick Johnson had 16, and Aaron Gordon notched a double- double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats, who made good on 54.4 percent of their field goal attempts, hitting 10 3-pointers along the way. A massive 55-24 rebounding advantage played an integral role, as did the fact that Arizona committed only five turnovers. Defensively, the 'Cats held the Knights to 31 percent shooting from the floor, as the visitors converted only 6-of-20 long-range tries. Johnson leads the club in scoring at 16 ppg, and Gordon is nearly averaging a double-double with 13.3 points and 9.8 caroms per contest.