SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) -- Josh Duncan sank his free throws, hit his jump shots, nailed his layups and buried his 3-pointers. He's one of the dependable upperclassmen who have helped Xavier pull out tough road wins all season.
Duncan came off the bench to score 23 points on a perfect night of shooting, fellow senior Drew Lavender hit a big 3-pointer in the second half, and Xavier (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) withstood a furious rally by Rhode Island to defeat the Rams 81-77 on Monday.
Xavier (22-4, 10-1 Atlantic 10 Conference) extended its winning streak to eight straight, with the Musketeers winning their last four games -- three of them on the road -- by four or fewer points. They have won five straight on the road and 14 of their last 15 overall.
Duncan didn't miss a shot, connecting on four free throws, three 3-pointers and eight field goals overall. It mirrored his most recent performance at Charlotte last Wednesday, when he scored 25 points on 7-of-7 shooting to lead Xavier to a 62-60 victory.
"I'm just playing with confidence, I guess," he said. "The couple times I've been open, just trying to be confident when I shoot -- along with everybody else on the team."
The Musketeers increased their lead in the A-10 with the win. Saint Joseph's, which entered Monday in second with a 7-3 conference record, lost to La Salle 90-89.
Parfait Bitee scored 25 points and Will Daniels added 23 for Rhode Island (20-6, 6-5). Kahiem Seawright pulled down 10 of Rhode Island's 29 rebounds. The loss snapped the Rams' 11-game home winning streak and was their third in four games.
Xavier used a 19-9 surge late in the first half to take a 44-34 lead into halftime after being up by as many as 14 with less than 4 minutes to play. The Musketeers dominated the Rams inside in the first half, scoring 20 points in the paint and holding a 17-11 rebounding advantage.
But Rhode Island outrebounded Xavier in a second half that featured four ties and six lead changes.
"We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the first half," Rhode Island coach Jim Baron said. "They stepped up and hit some shots, made some big plays. We fought back. I thought our kids did a great job fighting back, taking the lead."
The Rams opened the second half with a 26-16 run. Lamonte Ulmer's jumper put Rhode Island in front with 7:59 left but Duncan hit a 3 to give Xavier a 60-59 lead.
The Rams tied it on an Ulmer free throw before giving up the lead for good on a long-range jumper by Stanley Burrell, another senior, with 5:48 left to play.
A 3-pointer by Daniels with 4 seconds left got Rhode Island within three, but Lavender hit one of two free throws with 1.7 seconds remaining.
Xavier succeeded in shutting down Jimmy Baron, the coach's son and a normally dependable shooting threat for Rhode Island. Baron was 0-for-7 from the field, finishing with just two points on a pair of second-half free throws.
"Defensively, that's what I do," Duncan said. "Coming out, I try my best to pitch a shutout every night."
Rhode Island hit 19 of 27 free throws.
Rhode Island last defeated a ranked opponent on Dec. 2, 1998, when the Rams beat then-No. 25 Utah 70-63. Rhode Island defeated Xavier the last time the teams played, a 79-71 win in the semifinals of last season's A-10 conference tournament.