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January 30, 2014
RMU holds off Bryant to stay perfect
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Mark this one down as Anthony Myers-Pate's flu game.
In front of a raucous crowd with a national television audience watching and the team right behind them in the standings looking for revenge, Myers-Pate and the rest of the depleted Robert Morris Colonials did what they've done best the last few weeks.
They keep winning.
Myers-Pate scored a career high 21 points in 29 minutes as Robert Morris held off Bryant for a 79-76 win that kept the Colonials perfect in the Northeast Conference.
"There wasn't any doubt that he was going to play and give everything he had, because that's what he does," head coach Andrew Toole said. "Fortunate, obviously, that he shot the ball as well as he did, but from an effort standpoint, from a desire standpoint, he's as good as we've ever had here. He wants to win and do everything in his power to help his team."
As if trimming the roster essentially in half wasn't enough the last two weeks, Robert Morris went into Thursday's showdown with Myers-Pate barely able to practice. When he did, he vomited. He even was sick during the team's morning shootaround.
"I guess it was just the demons living my body," Myers-Pate cracked.
With the demons apparently excommunicated, Myers-Pate focused his attention on making Bryant sick.
Myers-Pate, shooting just 35 percent on the season, sank 8 of his 9 shots for his 21 points. He was a perfect 3 of 3 from long range, well above his season average of 21 percent. He also provided five rebounds, and with Lucky Jones struggling with his shot, Myers-Pate provided the perfect combo to go with Karvel Anderson's 24 points.
"We haven't had this confidence in a while," Anderson said. "You can see it in practice. Everybody is more urgent, more ready to prepare for the things we need to do to be successful. It's showing out there on the court."
For much of the game, it appeared Robert Morris wouldn't even flinch against Bryant. RMU stormed out of the gates on an 11-2 run and led by double digits for much of the game, including by 11 with 7:29 to go. But Bryant finally mounted a run as Robert Morris' adrenaline began to subside a little bit, and the Bulldogs cut the deficit to 65-61 with 5:44 to go.
"I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I got a little tired," Anderson said. "But I think that was just us. We kind of fed into the way they were trying to force the game to be, the tempo they were trying to play at."
Robert Morris responded, as David Appolon stymied the rally with a lay-up and sparked a 6-point surge. But Bryant had its legs back thanks to the run, and the Bulldogs closed again when Corey Maynard drained a 3-pointer with 2:37 left to make it 71-68.
That's when Myers-Pate struck again, dropping in his own 3-pointer to instantly give Robert Morris a 6-point cushion. It was a shot just as clutch as Anderson's baskets late in the previous game against Bryant.
"I gave him a big hug before the game and I guess he rubbed off on me," Myers-Pate said.
Bryant trimmed the lead again to 75-74 with 45 seconds left, but a series of odd events enabled Robert Morris to play with the lead for the entire finale. Bryant intentionally fouled, sending Myers-Pate to the line with 32 seconds left. He made both, and Bryant responded with an Alex Francis lay-up.
Bryant fouled again, but Anderson calmly knocked down both shots with 13 seconds left. Robert Morris intended to foul, but Maynard made a quick move and tried to thread a pass through. Anderson knocked it out of bounds, setting up the final play and what most thought would be a sure foul by RMU.
"Karvel made a great play to get the deflection and set up the sideline out of bounds. What we were going to try to do was have Stephan Hawkins make the ball go towards the backcourt and if the ball went to the backcourt, we were going to foul," Toole explained. "The ball came into the corner. Karvel was smart and didn't foul."
With a chance that Joe O'Shea would have taken the shot, Toole's immediate reaction was to be pleased when Anderson didn't foul. Instead, Maynard took a shot at tying the game with a 3-pointer and missed at the buzzer, though Toole was a little hesitant about the outcome after it left Maynard's hands.
"Thankfully it worked out well for us tonight, even though Maynard got a pretty darn good look," Toole said. "I thought it was going in for about three-quarters of the way."
Robert Morris is now 7-0 in the NEC, and while Myers-Pate and Anderson were the headliners Thursday night, it was the team's third straight complete performance. All eight players scored, and Appolon chipped in nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals for his best game of the season.
"Dave is a guy who, because at times in his career he's been inconsistent in his approach to practice and inconsistent in his preparation, his minutes have also been inconsistent," Toole said. "We know Dave is very talented and he can affect games in a positive way. He did that tonight."
Robert Morris hits the halfway point of the NEC schedule Saturday when it hosts Central Connecticut State.
Officials: Gary Prager, Bernard Clinton, Tim Kelly
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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