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March 22, 2013

RMU shifts focus to Providence

As Velton Jones and Anthony Myers-Pate began to regroup with the rest of their Robert Morris teammates Thursday morning, the two talked about the next step for the Colonials.

Conscious of what the upset over Kentucky has done for the program's visibility, the two are well aware of what Monday's second round NIT game at Providence could mean.

"We really want to win this next game to let people know that game wasn't a fluke," Myers-Pate said. "We're capable of playing with anybody."

The 59-57 win over Kentucky at the Sewall Center on Tuesday proved that Robert Morris can make the small gym a nightmare for even the most storied of programs. But Robert Morris will head back out on the road now that the scheduling quirks are over. The Colonials are using the five-day layoff to slowly immerse themselves back into a routine.

"I think the fact that we didn't know our opponent until last night was great. It allowed us to just kind of be and enjoy it, let these guys spend their time getting patted on the back, which they deserve," Andy Toole said. "Hopefully we can use the benefits of Tuesday and just continue to sell the message of if we can be detailed, if we can play together, if we can follow the formula, good things can happen for us."

Toole demanded that his team expend every ounce of energy they possessed - and maybe even some they didn't know they had - in Tuesday's win. Though he acknowledged that Providence gets a break as well, he's hopeful that the time will give Robert Morris an extra boost.

"But after not only the physical effort that it took but the emotional effort that we expended on Tuesday, I think it is nice to have a little bit of time," Toole said.

Several players were still sore Thursday from Tuesday's game, a little unusual but not completely surprising given how taxing the season has been on Robert Morris.

"Tuesday was kind of extra with everything going crazy around here because it's Kentucky. We gave it our all," Myers-Pate said. "You saw on the floor, people cramping and stuff, and there was a lot of emotion to the game. Now we just have to get mentally focused now and get ready for the next one."

"The physical part's not going to be the problem. We'll take care of our bodies, get treatment, go take ice baths."

Toole isn't worried about the physical aspect either. It's Robert Morris' mental approach that has his primary focus, just as it has all year long.

"The mental aspect is the biggest part of the whole thing," Toole said. "The ability to keep your team on a somewhat even keel when it comes to preparation, keep them a little on edge about the opponent and what needs to be done, it's the biggest part for every game."

The focus is fully on Providence, but Robert Morris may not be fully aware of some of the recent history of the NIT. Mid-majors like Dayton and Wichita State are recent NIT champions. But that doesn't mean they don't understand the lure of Madison Square Garden.

"They always say special things happen at the Garden," Myers-Pate said. "We beat Kentucky. Now why not try to get to the Garden? We have nothing to lose."

- Toole said forward Lucky Jones is not expected to be suspended following his flagrant foul on Kentucky's Archie Goodwin Tuesday. The ruling apparently is that a player is not automatically suspended for a flagrant foul, even if he's ejected, if it comes during a basketball play. Suspensions are mostly reserved for scenarios involving a fight.

- Though Robert Morris' biggest connection to Providence is the memory of losing to Villanova in the 2010 NCAA Tournament at the Friars' Dunkin Donuts Center, Myers-Pate has a family connection. Former Friars guard God Shammgod is now on the Providence staff. He also happens to be Myers-Pate's uncle.

"I remember seeing him play in New York in tournaments, going to New York in the summer and going with him to the street tournaments and stuff," said Myers-Pate, who was still fairly young at the time. "Everybody was excited to see him play, see the dude's moves."

Shammgod played two seasons at Providence and was drafted in the second round of the 1997 NBA Draft. He played briefly with the Washington Wizards before finishing his career overseas.

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

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