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January 4, 2014
RMU can't hold off late Alabama charge
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It was everything that Robert Morris needed to beat a major conference team on the road.
The Colonials held Alabama to 20 first half points, the fewest Robert Morris had allowed all season long. Even with Mike McFadden sidelined with a knee injury, Robert Morris was even at the half in rebounds, hadn't committed many fouls, and had protected the basketball while executing a patient and efficient offense.
Then the second half started, and Alabama ratcheted up the pressure. Frustration mounted, turnovers popped loose frequently, and it all snowballed on Robert Morris.
Alabama used a second half surge, created in part by 13 second half Robert Morris turnovers, to rally past Robert Morris and win 64-56. The loss concluded Robert Morris' non-conference schedule and left RMU with a 5-10 record heading into Northeast Conference play next week.
"I'm as competitive as anybody. I hate to lose. I'm annoyed at some of the things we did late. But I can't fault them for their effort and the way they went out to try and win the game," head coach Andrew Toole said on his post-game radio show. "That's a team that I enjoyed coaching, and I told them that."
In many respects, it was Robert Morris' best performance of the season. The 64 points allowed were the third fewest of the season, behind only the 61 points given up to Campbell and 63 points given up to Duquesne. Robert Morris' 2-3 zone was very effective against Alabama's half-court offense, especially in the first half. RMU stormed out to a 9-0 run as Alabama couldn't hit a shot in its first five minutes.
"I thought we were really effective in our zone," Toole said. "I thought we were able to take away some looks that they've gotten and we were able to do some things better than we had done in previous games in the zone. That's something we can be encouraged by."
Alabama scored 10 points in the final 3:40 of the first half, but still trailed Robert Morris 23-20 going into the break. At that point, Alabama switched to an aggressive full-court press that flustered Robert Morris. Robert Morris held a 30-26 lead with 15:41 left in the game, but the Colonials committed six straight turnovers without taking a shot in the next three minutes. Alabama took advantage and scored nine straight points to take a 33-30 lead.
Alabama never trailed again. The Crimson Tide stretched the lead to three possessions and led by as many as 10 points, but Robert Morris kept it close and only trailed 55-51 with 2:23 left in the game. But the Colonials missed two lay-ups, Alabama scored, and the Crimson Tide held Robert Morris off with free throws in the final 90 seconds.
Robert Morris got 16 points from Karvel Anderson plus 14 points and seven rebounds from Lucky Jones. Stephan Hawkins played a season high 30 minutes in relief of McFadden, and he provided eight points and two rebounds. But the 19 turnovers did Robert Morris in, including four from Kavon Stewart and five from Jeremiah Worthem.
"We want them to be aggressive," Toole said. "Understanding when to do those things is important. And if you go and do them and get denied, what's your back-up plan?"
It was the second straight year that Robert Morris had a chance to knock off an SEC team on the road. Last year, Robert Morris had an early lead against Arkansas but let turnovers and personal fouls, plus some cold shooting, help guide Arkansas to a 79-74 win.
"It's disappointing to be right there and have one or two plays be the difference," Toole said. "For a team like ours that's still learning on the fly, hopefully it's something they can remember for a while and spur them on to see how important all the things we talk about on a daily basis, as much as they can be annoying, they really make a difference."
Robert Morris begins NEC play on Thursday at Sacred Heart before traveling to Bryant on Saturday.
Officials: Mike Thibodeaux, Glenn Tuitt, Forrest Sigler
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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