Rhode Island (20-7, 12-4) started the day in a four-way tie with Dayton, VCU and Davidson for first place in the Atlantic 10 with one week remaining in the regular season. Additionally, its 12-4 conference record is its best start in school history.
The Rams held a 36-24 lead at the break but La Salle battled back to cut the deficit to one with 3:55 left on a Jerrell Wright layup. That was the final field goal of the game for either team, however, as Matthews hit 3 of 4 of his final four free throws and Rhode Island clamped down defensively.
Wright scored 23 points for La Salle (15-14, 7-9), which had an opportunity to tie the game with six seconds left, but Jordan Price missed from downtown.