ST. LOUIS (AP) - Javon Bess scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half and Saint Louis held off Rhode Island 60-53 on Sunday in an Atlantic-10 Conference opener.
Bess made 8 of 13 shots, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and added four rebounds and three steals for the Billikens (10-4), who improved to 9-0 at home this season. Hasahn French had 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double and Tramaine Isabell Jr. added 13 points.
The two teams played to a 25-all tie at halftime. Isabell had nine points and Bess and French scored eight apiece to account for all of the Billikens' scoring. The trio hit 11 of 20 shots in the first half while the rest of the Billikens were 0 for 12.
True freshman Tyrese Martin had a layup with 9:23 remaining in the game to give the Rams (7-6) a 45-44 lead. But Isabell fed French for a dunk and KC Hankton followed with a 4-point play - his only points of the game - to put the Billikens up 50-45 with 8:49 remaining. Jeff Dowtin's 3-pointer pulled the Rams within two points late, but Bess scored four straight to push the lead back to six and wrap up the win.
Saint Louis missed 12 of 23 free throws to keep the Rams in it.