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January 21, 2012

RMU rallies in second half, wins in overtime

The disbelief was evident in Andy Toole's voice the second he stepped behind the microphone. After all, not even Toole could explain how Toole's Robert Morris squad fell behind by 15 points in the second half to 4-17 Monmouth, only to rally and win 81-73 in overtime?

"I'm still not really sure what just happened out there," Toole said on his post-game radio show. "That was about 17 games all rolled into one."

This one had everything, from 7-foot-1 Monmouth center Phil Wait going Phi Slamma Jamma on Robert Morris with several dunks, to Monmouth roaring out to a 19-3 run to start the second half, to Velton Jones reaching his 1,000th career point with 35 points, and Anthony Myers knocking down three straight three-pointers to help Robert Morris rally.

The madness started in the second half. Robert Morris held a 33-29 lead at the break, but Monmouth came out throwing haymakers. The Hawks were a perfect six-for-six on three-pointers as they built a 53-38 lead with 11:51 to go.

"They came out swinging and didn't stop. They have things going in the right direction, that's for sure," Toole said. "(Monmouth's) relentless and we didn't come out with that kind of energy in the second half."

That's when Jones and Myers began to take over.

"I think what happened was Velton Jones happened," Toole said. "Velton said this is what we're doing and this is how we're coming back in the game."

Jones hit two three-pointers to cut the lead down to single digits. Then Myers went on an absolute tear, knocking down three consecutive three-pointers to trim Monmouth's lead to 59-55 with 7:17 to go.

"He was a guy that I think they were willing to give a 3-point shot to," Toole said of Myers' performance. "He was huge. And then once you make a couple threes, you can drive the lane again."

Which is precisely what Robert Morris did. Lucky Jones knocked down two free throws, Velton Jones hit a short jumper, and Myers scored on a fastbreak lay-up to finally tie it up again at 61 with 5:07 to go. Just over two minutes later, Myers fed Velton Jones for a three-pointer off a drive to give the Colonials their first lead since the start of the second half.

"We got one stop at a time, we took a good shot," Toole said. "All of a sudden we found ourselves right where we needed to be."

Monmouth disintegrated, though a combination of missed free throws and turnovers gave Monmouth's Jesse Steele a chance to win it on the final possession of regulation. Steele missed his jumper, and Robert Morris flexed its muscles again in overtime. The Colonials scored the first eight points of the extra frame and made some key free throws down the stretch.

Velton Jones and Myers combined for 34 of Robert Morris 43 points in the final 11:51 of regulation and all of overtime. Jones finished with 35 points, reaching his 1,000th point on a three-pointer in the first half, and also had six assists. Myers was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line for a career high 16 points. Lucky Jones pulled down a career high 14 rebounds and Mike McFadden chipped in ten points.

"We haven't clicked on all cylinders yet," Toole said. "I'd like to have one of those because I think it would make my heart beat a little slower."

Warts and all, it still resulted in a Robert Morris win and kept them tied up in the logjam in second place in the conference behind unbeaten Long Island. Robert Morris and LIU play Thursday at the Sewall Center.

"We'll enjoy the bus ride back, try and figure out how the hell this just happened, and go from there," Toole said.

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

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