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March 6, 2013Tweet Follow @achiappazzi
As Robert Morris made its final road trip of the regular season last weekend in New England, head coach Andy Toole remarked how locked in his team looked in wins over Bryant and Central Connecticut State.
St. Francis-Brooklyn can now attest the Colonials haven't lost that focus.
Robert Morris put the Terriers on their heels early and cruised to a 75-57 Northeast Conference quarterfinal win. Robert Morris will host Mount St. Mary's in a semifinal on Saturday at 2:30.
"I don't see any weaknesses in their team. I don't think we played particularly well tonight. I thought they had a lot to do with that, but we could have played better," St. Francis coach Glenn Braica said. "We probably gave them confidence by not guarding a couple times in transition and giving them open looks to get going."
Robert Morris made just six 3-pointers in a 71-61 loss to St. Francis in Brooklyn in January. The Colonials had four in the first 4:01 of the game en route to an 11-for-31 performance from beyond the arc.
"Just much better ball movement and much better player movement," Toole said. "Velton (Jones) or Ant (Myers-Pate) were doing a really good job penetrating and getting into the lane and finding guys whether it was in a set offense or in transition. It just seemed to be what the defense gave us."
There were few areas of concern for Toole after Wednesday's performance. Robert Morris held St. Francis to 40 percent shooting, including a paltry 2-for-9 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Colonials found their efficiency on offense, dishing out 16 assists on 28 field goals while turning the ball over just nine times. That included eight assists from Velton Jones, who scored just three points but played a major role in Robert Morris' offense.
"It's just what the game was giving me. It's not all about scoring," Jones said.
Four of Jones' assists came in a 13-4 opening sprint for Robert Morris in the first four minutes of the game, and Toole said Jones' presence after playing just two minutes in the first game helped balance out Robert Morris' offense.
"It's huge," Toole said. "At times when they tried to press us, he broke the press immediately. And it also divvies up ball-handling responsibilities. In that first game, Ant Myers had to play a ton of minutes and they wear you down."
Robert Morris wore St. Francis down instead. It was a 37-23 Robert Morris lead at halftime, and a 3-pointer from Coron Williams on the opening possession of the second half set the tone for the final 20 minutes. Robert Morris led by as many as 23 points in the second half, and it was an 8-point barrage from Karvel Anderson that iced the win. Anderson hit back-to-back 3-pointers, then picked up an offensive rebound and hit a fadeaway jumper to give RMU a 70-47 lead with just 4:34 left. Two minutes later, Toole emptied his bench.
"We kind of felt like they were dying a little bit before that, but when I got the opportunity, I just felt like I had a chance to put the nail in the coffin," Anderson said. "They can get going and come back at any time, and we didn't want to take that chance."
Anderson led the way with 20 points and Lucky Jones had 16 points and seven rebounds. Russell Johnson, meanwhile, had an impressive all-around game with 19 points, seven rebounds, and five steals. He and Lucky Jones also combined to limit Jalen Cannon, who had a quiet 15 points to lead St. Francis.
"It's extremely hard. But at the same time, you have to continue to fight," Lucky Jones said of trying to contain Cannon. "Every bucket that he got was very hard, and we just had to keep making it hard on him and not let him get anything easy so his team could feed off of him."
St. Francis never did, and Robert Morris was able to cruise because of that defensive effort.
The semifinal game against Mount St. Mary's will renew a rivalry that was the NEC's best in the first two years of Toole's time at Robert Morris, including an epic 48-46 win for Robert Morris in the 2009 NEC Championship game at the Sewall Center.
"We had some absolute wars with them," Toole said. "You always knew it was going to be an incredibly intense match-up, and I think Saturday will be no different than that."
Officials: Robert Riley, Doug Aprahamian, Daniel Acosta
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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