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January 18, 2014
Poised RMU pulls away from Mount
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Whether it was the revenge factor, a team simply settling into the rhythm of conference play or the adrenaline of a little more adversity, Robert Morris turned in its most complete performance of the season Saturday afternoon against Mount St. Mary's.
The Colonials shook off a handful of Mount St. Mary's runs and pulled away to win 77-69 in Emmitsburg, Maryland, exacting a little revenge for the Mount ousting RMU in the Northeast Conference semifinals last year. Robert Morris also improved to 4-0 in the NEC, their best start in league play since 2005-06.
"The one thing that we talked about leading into the game, pregame, all during the game, was having some emotional discipline. The way that Mount plays, they make it so hectic and the game ebbs and flows so much," head coach Andrew Toole said on his post-game radio show. "We had three turnovers in the second half. We were really poised. I was really proud of how the guys played tonight."
The win came in the face of additional adversity for a Robert Morris team that's had its backs to the wall on several occasions this season. Already missing Desjuan Newton while he sorts out his future, Robert Morris lost Mike McFadden after the senior center announced he was leaving the team. McFadden has dealt with numerous injuries since arriving in Moon Township three years ago as a transfer from Iona and nearly left the team last season.
With McFadden gone, the onus fell on Stephan Hawkins to fill his role in the starting lineup and Aaron Tate to play more minutes inside. Both stepped up, as Tate had five points and seven rebounds, while Hawkins eight points, three rebounds, and a strong second half.
"There were some things he did really well and some things we'll talk to him about," Toole said. "That entire second half, man, his knees were bent. He was moving with the ball, he was communicating and he was walling up like we were asking him to do. He was bodying people up and I thought he was extremely effective for us in the middle."
If the revenge factor received top billing, the undercard was the duel between Northeast Conference leading scorers Julian Norfleet and Karvel Anderson. But instead of a high-scoring back and forth, the duo took themselves out of the game defensively. Norfleet scored 11 points and had six assists, but he was also forced into five turnovers. Anderson played the role of decoy, scoring just 12 points, but freeing up the offense to flow elsewhere.
It flowed right to freshman Jeremiah Worthem, who scored a career-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Fifteen of those points came in the second half, as Robert Morris shook off a 35-29 halftime deficit to storm out of the gates, take the lead, and slowly pull away.
"In the first half, we were having a little trouble trying to figure out - after we beat their pressure - what could we get into quickly that was effective for us," Toole said. "We tried a couple different things unsuccessfully. I thought we missed about 10 lay-ups. Even if you go 5-for-10 in those lay-ups, the game is in a different situation."
That situation changed in the second half. Anderson and Lucky Jones helped Worthem out in the final frame, as the duo combined for 24 second-half points after scoring just four in the first half. And after Worthem scored nine points in a three minute span to help keep the Mount at bay, it was Jones' 3-pointer that ignited the finish with 5:35 left.
"Huge free throws and he made that huge three that gave us that separation," Toole said of Jones' play. "In certain games, if he doesn't score early, he starts to press. He didn't press tonight. He allowed the game to come to him and he ends up with 16 and 10."
Robert Morris led by multiple possessions the rest of the way and iced the game at the free throw line by 11 of its 12 shots from the charity stripe in the final minutes.
Robert Morris now has four straight games at home, beginning Thursday night against Sacred Heart.
Officials: James Ostwalt, Donnie Eppley, Martin Herrick
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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