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November 15, 2011

Colonials lock down Peacocks in second half

There was 1:41 left on the clock in the first half when Yvon Raymond scored on a lay-up to give St. Peter's a 29-24 lead and Andrew Toole called a timeout.

What Toole said in the Robert Morris huddle is known only to he and the players and coaches around him. But whatever it was, it appeared to have an instant impact.

Robert Morris scored the final seven points of the half, held St. Peter's to just five points in the opening eight minutes of the second half, and cruised to a 69-52 win over the Peacocks in Jersey City, N.J.

"It's a great road win for us. We knew how hard they were going to play and how well they were going to defend," Toole said on his post-game radio show. "They really make you work offensively. In the first half, they did a good job of making us start our offensive a little further out than we wanted to."

Robert Morris had 19 assists on 23 field goals, and the ball movement established in the first half began to pay dividends in the second half. The Colonials shot 40 percent in the first half, but kicked it up to a blistering 61.9 percent in the second half. The Colonials didn't miss a shot in the first nine minutes of the second half.

"When you have 19 assists on 23 field goals, you know you're executing pretty well," Toole said. "It's one of the things that we've talked about all season so far, making sure we have a positive assist to turnover ratio. We shouldn't turn the ball over as much as we did last year."

Indeed, Robert Morris had just 12 turnovers, making it the second straight game that the Colonials had more assists than turnovers.

But it all began in those final minutes of the first half. Out of the timeout, Coron Williams hit a jumper. Then Anthony Myers forced a steal and fed Russell Johnson for a three-pointer. Williams sealed the scoring and the 31-29 halftime lead with two free throws.

A similar scenario played itself out in the second half and likely put the game away for Robert Morris. Velton Jones hit a fade-away, hand-in-his face three-pointer, forcing a St. Peter's timeout as the Colonials led 58-42. Immediately out of the timeout, Williams forced a steal and Lijah Thompson followed up a Myers miss with a two-handed jam, forcing another St. Peter's timeout.

"We want to make sure we're playing for a full 40 minutes and not taking possessions of off," Toole said of his team not taking its foot of the pedal. "They're a team that's resilient. They're not going to stop playing."

Jones had 19 points and seven assists to lead all scorers. Williams chipped in 13, Johnson had 11, and Thompson had 10 as eight Colonials scored. Lucky Jones and Keith Armstrong had solid second games as they combined for six points, eight rebounds, a steal, a block, and just one turnover in 38 minutes.

Jones continued to struggle from the floor, though, going just 1-of-8 in the city where he played high school ball.

"He's the kidn of player that's always going to be involved. This was a homecoming for him so I know he was amped up and excited," Toole said. "Maybe a little too excited on offense, but he did well being active and on defense."

Armstrong, Thompson, and Lawrence Bridges did well against St. Peter's frontcourt. Thompson and Bridges had better games than in their season debut against Rider, and Toole credited both with improved play.

"They were fair. I thought in the second half they did a much better job," he said. "They did a better job finishing, going strong aggressively to the basket."

A game after scoring 23 points, Chris Prescott had just eight points for St. Peter's, while Karee Ferguson scored eight early points and then disappeared, finishing with 10.

"They're going to be a really good team when it's all said and done in the MAAC conference," Toole said. "It's nice for the guys, it's nice to hopefully build confidence. Winning kind of builds on itself so hopefully that helps us out against Penn."

It's the first time Robert Morris started 2-0 since the 2006-2007 season, when they started 4-0. RMU and Penn will tip at 7:00 pn Saturday from the Palestra in Philadelphia.

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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