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January 5, 2012

RMU cruises to 3-0 start in NEC

Good teams find a variety of ways to win college basketball games.

One game after overcoming 31 turnovers to pull out a nail-biter against an Ohio team that had just one loss entering the game, Robert Morris took an easier path as they resumed Northeast Conference play against Bryant.

Robert Morris won 84-53 in Smithfield, Rhode Island, turned the ball over just eight times, committed just 11 fouls, and forced 23 turnovers of their own.

Velton Jones led Robert Morris with 15 points, seven assists, and four steals. Mike McFadden chipped in ten points, while Lucky Jones, Russell Johnson, Anthony Myers, and Coron Williams each had nine points.

Robert Morris never trailed, although the Bulldogs did try and shoot their way back in the game in the first half. Raphael Jordan hit four first half three-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points, as Bryant trimmed a 25-11 deficit to a 34-28 deficit at halftime.

"There was about a two and a half to three minute stretch where I thought we had worked ourselves into a pretty decent lead, and then we had three or four breakdowns defensively," RMU head coach Andy Toole said on his post-game radio show. "At halftime we just talked about cleaning that stuff up. I think if we're going to try and compete for a championship, you can't have two and a half to three minute lapses where you give teams 14 points."

Robert Morris recovered in the second half, storming out to a 42-30 lead in the first three minutes.

"I think that's a good sign for us," Toole said. "The way we approached the game in general was a good sign for us."

Robert Morris never looked back, and Toole emptied the bench in the final five minutes. Darren Washington played his first game since the season opener, and Brandon Herman got his first minutes in three games. At one point, Toole had all five freshmen - Herman, Washington, Keith Armstrong, Lucky Jones, and David Appolon - on the floor at the same time.

Lucky Jones had a team-high eight rebounds as the Colonials won the board battle 41-22. Just one game after catching some good-natured flak from Toole for not pulling down a rebound in his return from a foot injury, Lijah Thompson had six boards to go with his seven points in 14 minutes.

"It was another area that we could thought we could hurt them, getting on the glass," Toole said. "Guys really got to the glass, and anytime you can get yourself so many opportunities to score, you're bound to have good things happen to you."

Next up for Robert Morris is Central Connecticut State, which was able to come back to defeat St. Francis (Pa.) to improve to 3-0 in the NEC. Tip is at 3:30 on Saturday.

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