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March 2, 2013Tweet Follow @achiappazzi
Moments after his Central Connecticut State Blue Devils defeated Robert Morris back in January to drop the Colonials to a surprising 0-2 start in the Northeast Conference, Howie Dickenman had some words of reason to share.
"Don't worry about Robert Morris," the CCSU head coach said. "They'll be fine."
Dickenman and the rest of the NEC might be wishing his prediction wasn't so accurate. Robert Morris avenged its earlier loss to CCSU with an 81-61 thumping of the Blue Devils to cap a 22-9 regular season and another regular season championship.
"I think it just shows how far we've come since then," head coach Andy Toole said on his post-game radio show. "The way that they've rebounded, the way that they've stayed together to finish the year 14-2 in the last 16 games, I think is impressive."
Just 48 hours after Robert Morris locked up the top seed in the NEC with a 77-75 win over Bryant, the 11:30 tip against CCSU seemed like a prime opportunity for a letdown. It never happened. Showing no signs of a hangover, Robert Morris scored the first eight points of the game and led by double digits for almost 30 minutes of game time.
"I was very impressed with the way we handled the entire situation," Toole said. "This was the consummate game, where we've already clinched, it has no bearing on anything, and now you have to gear yourself up to play a good Central team."
Toole chose to sit Karvel Anderson to give his broken wrist a rest, and he closely monitored Velton Jones and Mike McFadden, the two sorest Colonials. But his caution wasn't warranted, as Russell Johnson led five players in double figures while Jones was content to play facilitator on offense and director on defense.
"Our two seniors were excellent today in their leadership and their communication and just keeping everybody engaged and focused," Toole said.
Jones finished with 12 points, seven assists, and four steals. Lucky Jones had 10 points and 10 rebounds, Coron Williams found his scoring touch with 17 points (including five 3-pointers), and McFadden chipped in 10 points.
As crisp as the offense was, the defense was even better. CCSU star Kyle Vinales scored 34 points in that January loss. He and fellow scorer Matt Hunter combined for 28, shooting a paltry 8-of-29 and 2-of-12 on 3-pointers. Vinales didn't score his first bucket until five minutes remained in the first half.
"We had a body on him at all times," Toole said. "We never really wanted to give him too much space or allow him to be comfortable. We forced him into some tough ones and he couldn't really get into a rhythm."
It's the second straight time Robert Morris finished the regular season 22-9. The 14 conference wins are the most the Colonials have had since their 2009-2010 championship and subsequent appearance against Villanova in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Robert Morris will open NEC Tournament play at home on Wednesday.
Officials: John Regan, Thomas Regan, Brandon Cruz
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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