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November 20, 2012Tweet Follow @achiappazzi
Cleveland State threw everything it could at Robert Morris. Bodies hit the floor, shots were contested in a forest of leaping arms, and offensive players were practically joined at the hip by their defensive counterparts.
It didn't matter. Whatever Cleveland State came up with defensively, Robert Morris countered with its own blend of lock-down defense. And then Velton Jones took over. Jones scored 10 of his 15 points in the final 10:36 of the game, helping Robert Morris hold off Cleveland State 71-62.
"You just have to help your team win. That's my job," Jones said. "When it's down the stretch, help us get us a victory and that's what I just try to do."
With 12:21 to go, Cleveland State took its first lead of the game on a 3-pointer by Charlie Lee. Robert Morris had been up by as many as ten points, but now trailed the Vikings 41-40.
"That's the game of basketball. Teams are going to have their runs," forward Mike McFadden said, adding that the Colonials regrouped in the media timeout. "That gave us the spirit to get on the court and do what we had to do."
It started with a McFadden lay-up and quickly grew. Russell Johnson's steal led to a lay-up from Jones. Lucky Jones pulled in a defensive rebound, and 12 seconds later McFadden threw down a dunk on a feed from Velton Jones. Cleveland State mixed in a lay-up, but Johnson and Velton Jones each knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 50-43 in favor of Robert Morris with 7:17 left.
In the span of 4:04, Robert Morris took a one-point deficit and turned it into an eight-point lead.
"The first couple of games we weren't really a team. Now we're starting to get rolling, starting to click, and we're staying together no matter what happens," Velton Jones said. "Bowling Green and Cleveland State are both pretty good teams and they both made runs on us. They pushed us and it was a great test for us to stay together as a team."
Cleveland State had a couple more pushes left. The Vikings pulled within 52-50 with 5:52 left, but Robert Morris went on a 9-2 run to stretch the lead back to nine with 3:07 left. A 3-pointer by Tim Kamczyc cut RMU's lead to 61-57 with 2:30 left, and the Colonials called a timeout after an RMU turnover. Cleveland State shot a hurried jumper out of the timeout, and Robert Morris iced the game from the free throw line, making all ten shots from the stripe in the final 2:03.
"I thought it was a really, really good win for us tonight," coach Andrew Toole said. "I thought it was a big challenge for us coming off a win last night to gear it up again and face the physicality that we were going to face, the defensive pressure, and be able to withstand that and be successful against it."
The game was physical, though the referees allowed the two tight defenses to play for much of the game. Robert Morris did enjoy a significant advantage at the line, taking 27 free throws to Cleveland State's 11, but the bulk of that came at the end as the Vikings tried to foul. Velton Jones spent nearly as much time on the floor as he did upright, even sinking a short jumper as he dropped to the floor on his rear end at one point.
"Every time we play them, it's physical. We knew coming in we'd have to be able to take their pressure, take their holding," Jones said. "Whatever they do on defense, you just have to fight through it and play."
Jones even looked like he'd been through a fight at one point, after he was clipped by an errant arm and had to towel off a little blood.
"I'm used to it. I get beat up every game," Jones said. "You just have to play through it and then after the game get treatment and do ice baths, do whatever you've got to do to get ready for the next game."
Jones added six assists to his 15 points. McFadden also finished with 15 points and four rebounds, while Lucky Jones chipped in 13 points and 8 rebounds. Robert Morris is 3-3 after dropping its first two games by a combined 54 points, thanks in large part to improved defense and balanced scoring.
"Unfortunately, we needed to be humbled a little bit before we realized that this is the fun way to play," Toole said. "If we continue to defend and work hard and do all the things we're supposed to, we're going to be involved in games. We're going to be able to beat good teams. We're going to become a good team. And I think that's what the guys are starting to see."
Officials: Donnie Olson, Matt Potter, Todd Von Sossan
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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