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January 2, 2012

RMU holds on for final non-conference win

The numbers are simply staggering and suggest a win against 12-1 Ohio would be nearly impossible. Teams simply don't turn the ball over 31 times and commit 24 fouls and win games on the road against an opponent that's on the cusp of being nationally ranked.

Sometimes the numbers lie.

Robert Morris overcame turnovers, fouls, and a frantic rally by Ohio to knock off the Bobcats 70-67 in Athens, Ohio. Velton Jones had a game-high 17 points and dished out six assists, all while helping to hold Ohio leading scorer D.J. Cooper to 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting.

Twice, Robert Morris had double-digit leads only for Ohio to ride the wave of turnovers and fouls back to within a single possession The last time occurred late in the second half. Using a lockdown defense that held Ohio without a field goal for over three minutes, Robert Morris held a 70-62 lead with a minute left.

But Jones fouled out, Lucky Jones joined him after a minor scrum with off-setting technical fouls, and Ohio scored five points in 20 seconds off of two turnovers. Ohio put up multiple shots on their next possession until Russell Johnson finally came up with a block and a rebound. But Johnson missed his free throw after being fouled, and Ohio had one last look with 5.4 seconds left.

After a timeout, Cooper had a look but also had a hand in his face on a potential tying three-pointer. It went wide, and Robert Morris escaped with the win.

Prior to the frantic finish, Robert Morris had been in control for much of the game, even with the turnovers. When RMU held onto the ball, they scored almost at will, shooting 63.2 percent in the first half while scoring from nearly everywhere on the court. Down 32-21 with two minutes to go in the first half, Ohio gave the Colonials an early look at what they could expect at the finish. Ohio capitalized on multiple turnovers, and a Cooper three-pointer at the buzzer capped a 10-1 run to finish the half and had the Colonials clinging to a 33-31 lead at the break.

Robert Morris stretched the lead again to start the second half. Again, though, the Bobcats came back. Down 46-35, Ohio rattled off seven straight points before a Keith Armstrong lay-up snapped the skid for RMU. Ohio finally came all the way back for their first lead since the opening minute of play when a three-pointer made it 54-52 Bobcats.

The two went back and forth until it was tied at 62 with 2:17 to go. RMU didn't make another shot from the field from there on out, but sank free throws to pad their lead and give them cushion to hold on for the win.

Coron Williams chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds for Robert Morris, while Johnson had 10 and six, along with seven turnovers. Lijah Thompson played for the first time since the Cleveland State game and chipped five points in 14 minutes, giving the Colonials their first look at having two true, experienced big men.

The Colonials improved to 11-4 and finished their non-conference schedule with a 9-4 record. Northeast Conference play resumes this weekend with road games at Bryant and Central Connecticut State.

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

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