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Friars clip Colonials, 77-68

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

 

The Kentucky-killers have been eliminated. But they almost took out another big-league foe before bowing out.

When the NEC champion Robert Morris Colonials (24-11) upset top seed Kentucky last week, March Madness showed it could find its way into the NIT, as it has in the NCAA Tournament.  Playing with confidence after a 59-57 win at home over the defending national champions, it's hard to believe the Colonials wouldn't have had the swagger of a champion themselves before taking the Dunkin Donuts Center floor Monday night against Providence.

They had the swag, alright.  But the Friars had the final say in a 77-68 win, pushing PC into the NIT 3rd round Wednesday night at Baylor.

Possessing one of the top outside shooting teams the Friars (19-14) have faced all season, Robert Morris fired its way to an early seven-point lead following a quick three from 6-6 wing Russell Johnson and another jumper from Anthony Myers-Pate.  Recognizing the need to counteract RMU's shooting range, PC began to push the ball inside on the undersized Colonials.  A LaDontae Henton dunk with 10:45 to play before the half gave the Friars their first lead at 15-14,  but it was short-lived.  

The Colonials clicked on a 10-2 run, keyed by Coron Willliams and Karvel Anderson knocking down threes to take a 28-23 lead with 4:25 left.  Trailing by three late, the Friars finally got their first three-pointer of the game when Bryce Cotton nailed one from the top of the key as the halftime buzzer sounded, pulling PC into a 34-34 tie.  

They were fortunate to be there.  Despite a 22-9 advantage on the backboards, and allowing zero offensive rebounds, the Friar defense was torched for six-out-of-10 from long range by the RMU shooters...clearly keeping them in the game.

An 8-0 run early in the second half was capped by another Cotton trey, giving the Friars a 44-37 lead with 15:25 to play.  The Colonial shooters wouldn't cool off, however...at least not right away.  RMU's leading scorer, Karvel Anderson, found his range midway through the half and very nearly carried his team to the finish line.  Anderson's three with 6:49 remaining pulled Robert Morris back within two points at 61-59, after trailing by eight just two minutes earlier.

Another Johnson three gave the Colonials a 62-61 lead with 6:11 to play, when the free throws began to rain down on Robert Morris' season.  A superb shooting night from the foul line - connecting on 31-of-36 for the game - was a huge factor in overcoming the Colonials' outside shooting.  Their physical play, along with the Friar insistance on pushing the ball inside, put PC in position to win it from the line.  Five straight free throws made by Vincent Council, including a key three-point play with 3:06 to go, offset Kadeem Batts fouling out with 3:58 left.

What could have proven disastrous, turned out differently for the Friars.  Six straight RMU misses from the floor over the final 2:11 sealed the win, especially with the free-throw line proving so friendly.  For PC, that is.

For the Kentucky-killers, they'll have to live with the conquest of the Wildcats until next season rolls around.  The Friars have at least one more to play this year.

Friar Notes

Robert Morris won the Northeast Conference regular season title, beating Bryant 77-75 in Smithfield to help them to the title.  By winning the league crown, it earned them an automatic berth in the NIT after failing to win the league post-season tournament...Anderson led the Colonials with 18 points (4-7 on threes) while Russell Johnson scored 16 and 6-8 Mike McFadden added 14...Myers-Pate, who finished with three points and seven assists, is former Friar (and current student assistant coach) God Shammgod's nephew...in addition to the free-throw advantage held by PC (outscoring RMU 31-11 from the line), the Friars dominated the backboards with a 43-18 rebounding edge, including 16-3 off of the offensive glass...Robert Morris hit 11-for-25 from long range for the game, just 5-of-15 in the second half as the Friar defenders fought over and through screens, rather than switching defensively...Providence was led by Henton's 21 points, Cotton scored 20 and Council connected for his 3rd double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 assists - despite shooting just 1-for-9 from the floor...the game was the 3rd meeting all time between the teams, with PC having won the previous two.  Last time out, the Friars beat RMU 78-49 in 1992 at the Dunk...PC now has a 7-7 mark against opponents in the post-season (3-1 vs. NIT teams, 4-6 vs. NCAA)...the Friars are also now 11-3 on the year when they pull in 40 or more rebounds...grabbing 40+ boards against Baylor might prove to be a tough task.  The second-seeded Bears beat Arizona State 89-86 to earn the home game against 4th seeded PC Wednesday night in Waco, TX, with tip-off scheduled for 9:00 pm ET (8:45 pre-game on 103.7 FM)...the Friar team left campus immediately after the game, and will board a plane for Texas Tuesday morning...the Wednesday winner advances to the NIT semi-finals at Madison Square Garden in New York April 2...

 

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