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February 6, 2013
Shorthanded RMU shuts down St. Francis
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As Lucky Jones tumbled to the floor after sinking a fastbreak lay-up and getting fouled, a grin popped out onto his face. Even in a tumultuous year for Robert Morris, the sophomore forward and his fellow Colonials have had something to smile about.
Jones scored a career high 20 points on perfect shooting as Robert Morris shut down St. Francis (Pa.) 60-48 despite not having Mike McFadden or Velton Jones for the entire game and losing Anthony Myers-Pate for a stretch of the second half. It was yet another game where RMU didn't have a full bench.
"I've decided it's never going to happen. Maybe next season," Andy Toole said. "I can't really worry about it too much. I can't control it."
It's been one challenge or another for Robert Morris all year. Lijah Thompson was lost for the season due to a knee injury and Keith Armstrong is only now making his way back into the lineup after offseason foot surgery. Russell Johnson, Karvel Anderson, and Myers-Pate have all missed time due to injury, and only Coron Williams and Stephan Hawkins have played every game for the Colonials.
Wednesday night was no different. Velton Jones sat out to continue healing his injured shoulder after willing RMU to a victory over LIU-Brooklyn on Saturday. Myers-Pate got the start and guided the team until he hit his head early in the second half. After a woozy couple of minutes on the bench, the junior point guard returned to the game for a stretch before finishing the game with a bag of ice on his head.
"I felt okay, and then afterwards, a couple minutes later, my head started ringing so I told them to get me a sub," Myers-Pate said. "They told me if my head started ringing again, I was done."
McFadden wasn't around practice on Tuesday and wasn't in the building for the game. Toole said McFadden is away from the team for personal reasons, and though he's still part of the team, the timetable for his return is unknown.
"He's a valued member of the team and just had some personal things that he kind of needed to take care of and figure out," Toole said. "We look forward to having him back. Obviously it'll be when he's ready, but we're hopeful and his teammates are hopeful that it's as soon as possible."
Robert Morris still found a way to prevail, and the secret was an old recipe: Shutdown defense with just enough offense. The Red Flash's 48 points were the fewest by a Robert Morris opponent this year.
"It was okay. It could have been better," Lucky Jones said of the defense. "We slacked off a couple of plays, not finishing possessions by getting rebounds."
Robert Morris held St. Francis to just 26.3 percent shooting in the first half as the Colonials built a 25-16 lead. Though Robert Morris' offense wasn't much better, the Colonials protected the ball (just seven turnovers for the game) and forced St. Francis into late shots and 16 total turnovers.
St. Francis whittled the lead down in the second half as Dominique Major and Umar Shannon tried to shoot the Red Flash back into the game. But though the Red Flash shot 45.5 percent in the second half, Robert Morris maintained a lead largely due to the efforts of Jones and Anderson. Anderson scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half, while Jones was a perfect 3-of-3 from the floor and 13-of-13 from the free throw line. The free throw performance set a Sewall Center record for the most free throws without a miss by a Robert Morris player.
"This is my first (perfect performance)," Jones said. "I knew I didn't miss a shot, but I didn't know that as many free throws I took that it'd be that many. I was so focused on getting the win and getting stops."
Jones' performance was a crucial lift for a Robert Morris offense that was often without a point guard. Though Anderson and Williams can score off the dribble, they don't penetrate opposing defenses nearly as well as Velton Jones and Myers-Pate do. Toole said without that element, the Colonials have to simplify things on offense.
"You still need some people to get to the rim and break the defense down. We just don't get as much advantage sometimes with those guys, whether it's in ball screen situations or just the crispness of what we have going on," Toole said. "It's always nice to have two shooters on the floor. It's even better to have two shooters on the floor when you have a playmaker who can now get them some open shots."
By sitting out Wednesday night, Velton Jones will get a couple extra days to heal in preparation for Saturday's game against Wagner.
"He was very, very sore on Monday when we came to practice. His range of motion wasn't entirely there. The trainers and doctors kind of felt that getting him healthy was most important," Toole said. "If he continues to get it knocked around and bumped, it's never going to get the opportunity to heal."
Robert Morris improved to 16-8, 8-3 in the NEC and will tip against Wagner at 7 p.m.
Officials: Jeff Plunkett, Jeff Nichols, Art Jackson
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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