The 6-0 Wildcats displayed a balanced attack with four other players in double figures: Corey Fisher 14, Scottie Reynolds 13, Reggie Redding 11 (12 rebounds) and Antonio Pena 10.
Rhode Island (5-2) got 23 points from Jimmy Baron and 12 from Keith Cothran.
After giving up the game's first basket, Villanova never trailed, taking a 17-8 at 15:44 on a Corey Stokes free throw and holding a 40-33 edge at halftime.
The Wildcats made it 47-37 early in the second half and kept a double-digit lead most of the way. The Rams got within 53-54 with 6:47 to play on two free throws by Baron but Redding hit a three-pointer and Shane Clark drove the baseline for a bucket to push them back.