KINGSTON, R.I. (AP) Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said the Rams plan to use the NIT as a continuation of the regular season and to lay the foundation for next season.
E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell each scored 18 points and Rhode Island beat Iona 88-75 on Tuesday in the first round of the NIT.
The Rams (23-9) led 51-39 at halftime and remained ahead by double digits for much of the second half.
''We played 18 meaningful games during the Atlantic 10 season where we were in first place or played in meaningful games,'' Hurley said. ''We played two more meaningful games in Brooklyn. To get into the NIT and get more experience . it's what is going to lead to what's going to happen next, which is going to be big and beautiful.''
Terrell, a freshman, and Matthews Both, a sophomore, are key players moving forward.
Biggie Minnis and Jarvis Garrett each finished with 10 points for the Rams. T.J. Buchanan had 10 points and five rebounds in 12 minutes.
A.J. English led Iona (26-9) with 28 points while David Laury had 26 points. The Gaels automatically qualified for the NIT after winning the MAAC regular-season title.
Matthews hit a 3-pointer to put the Rams up 13-11 and they would not trail the rest of the way.
URI led by as many as 17 points in the first half before going into halftime with a 51-39 lead. The Rams were hot from 3-point range in the opening half, connecting on 7 of 13.
The closest the Gaels got in the second half was nine points after a three-point play by English made it 59-50 with 12:39 remaining. The Rams then scored five straight points to go back up by double digits.
''They came out making shots and were on fire the rest of the way. Unfortunately we were cold,'' said Iona coach Tim Cluess. ''URI has a heck of a team and a lot of depth. It was one good athlete after another and they beat us up. They were the better team tonight.''
The game was played under two experimental rules, a 30-second shot clock to create more offense and an expanded restricted area for the purpose of curbing collisions near the rim.
Iona: The Gaels scored the game's first six points before URI seized control.
Rhode Island: URI's bench players outscored Iona's reserves by a 32-0 margin. The Rams are now 9-3 all-time against the Gaels.
Iona: Season over.
Rhode Island will face Stanford in the second round.