Robert Morris is dominated by Mount St. Mary's in NEC title game
Mount St. Mary's again dashed Robert Morris' dream of making the NCAA Tournament.
The fourth-seeded Mountaineers shot 69.2 percent from the field in the first half and defeated Robert Morris, the NEC regular-season champion, 88-71 on Tuesday at Sewall Center.
Mount St. Mary's (16-16), which never trailed, started quickly and will represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time and first since 2008.
It was the second consecutive season Mount St. Mary's ended the Colonials NCAA hopes. Robert Morris (21-13) will play in the NIT for the second season in a row.
A disappointed Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said his team deserved better after all it has been through, from player defections to suspensions.
“It's been incredibly rewarding,” Toole said “The eight guys that are in the locker room right now, that are crushed, were incredible to coach. The efforts they gave on a daily basis really didn't show tonight, and that's what's so upsetting because they deserved better.
“Clearly, Mount was the better team (in this game). They had a great three-game run.”
All season, the Colonials found ways to rally despite a short bench.
This time, the deficit and opponent were too much.
The game was tied only once, 2-2, on a dunk by Robert Morris junior forward David Appolon.
Julian Norfleet gave the Mountaineers the lead for good at 5-2, when he made three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt. He scored 14 points in the first half, including his first three 3-pointers. He finished with 17.
Mount St. Mary's steadily continued to make shots and slowly opened a huge lead. The largest was 37-17 with 6:28 left in the half on back-to-back 3-pointers by Will Myers, who came off the bench and went 4 for 4 from the floor and made all three of his 3-pointers for 11.
“We did a poor job on defense,” Robert Morris junior forward Lucky Jones said.
Taylor Danaher also was perfect from the field in the opening half, converting four shots. He had 11 of his 15 points in that span.
“We put our best three players in the high post and attacked from there,” Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian said. “I felt I overcoached in the championship game in 2013. I only called four plays, and that's low for me.
“We won this championship game throughout the regular season by playing a tough nonconference schedule. This team really connected, and I knew when we beat Wagner in the semifinals we were going to win the championship.”
Mount St. Mary's hot shooting dismantled the Robert Morris 2-3 zone. The Mountaineers were 18 of 26 from the field. Despite making 13 for 25 from the field (52 percent), Robert Morris trailed 48-32 at halftime.
“I don't think we were disciplined early in the game,” Toole said.
“They did a real good job of spacing the floor and worked that high post area with (Sam) Prescott. They put their three best players in positions for us to make choices. It seemed like the choice we made was the wrong one.”
Robert Morris pulled within 57-47 with 12:44 left, but tournament MVP Rashad Whack hit a 3-pointer after the Colonials failed twice to get the deficit into single digits. Whack finished with 20 points, 16 in the second half.
Toole said he felt his team rushed things once they cut into Mount St. Mary's lead.
“When we got it down to 10, we tried to make a 10-point play,” Toole said. “And those don't exist. Ten went back to 20 pretty quickly because we wasted possessions. Even the start of the second half, we made three or four stops and gave the ball right back.”
Karvel Anderson, the NEC Player of the Year, led Robert Morris with 21 points. Chuck Oliver and Jones scored 11 each, and Appolon had 10. Jones was the lone Colonial to make the All-Tournament team.
“The type of players we are and type of competitors we are, we didn't think it was over until the final horn,” Anderson said. “We weren't looking forward to any other game unless it was the NCAA Tournament.”