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Short-handed RMU edges Bryant to stay perfect in conference

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 10:30 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Kavon Stewart scores past Bryant's Alex Francis in the first half Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, at the Swell Center.

Robert Morris opened a two-game lead in the Northeast Conference by holding off second-place Bryant, 79-76, Thursday in a jammed Sewall Center. The Colonials (12-10, 7-0 NEC) have won seven consecutive games.

Since Robert Morris learned about the suspension of four players a week ago, the team chemistry seems to have improved. Instead of slumping, the Colonials have stepped up their game.

“Our guys did an excellent job hanging on to the win,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “We got great contributions from everyone on the court. They made plays at crucial times. It was another great team effort.”

David Appolon played one of his best games in an RMU uniform. He finished with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Stephan Hawkins had six rebounds and Aaron Tate five rebounds.

All eight players scored for the Colonials.

Toole said he feels the players are more comfortable now with their roles.

“When they go on the floor they can play their game and not impress anybody,” Toole said. “They just have to go out and be me. I like how they guys have rallied together, our leadership has grabbed everybody and closed ranks a little bit. It's made the team more enjoyable to work with the past couple weeks.”

Robert Morris continued its solid play despite a short bench. The Colonials raced out to a 7-0 lead and never trailed in this national televised game.

They built a double-digit lead as Karvel Anderson and Anthony Myers-Pate combined for 29 points in the opening half. Robert Morris grabbed a 42-34 lead at halftime.

Anderson finished with 24 points, including two clutch free throws with 12.6 seconds left, and Myers-Pate had 21. He hit two big free throws with 31.4 seconds left when Bryant (13-9, 5-2) was making a comeback. Myers-Pate his best game of the season with symptoms of the flu, and he did it in front of his mentor — former Colonial Velton Jones who was in the stands.

“I'm not surprised at all how Anthony played,” Anderson said. “It's the type of player he is. He's worked harder than anyone on this team.

“He had one of those nights. He was telling us all day he wanted us to go 7-0.”

The Colonials' largest lead of the first half was 12 points on four occasions, the last being 42-30 on a 3-pointer by Myers-Pate, who was 6 for 6 from the floor in the first half.

Robert Morris opened up a couple of 14-point leads in the second half, but Bryant kept battling behind the inside play of Alex Francis and the outside shooting of Corey Maynard and Dyami Starks.

A three-point play by Maynard cut the Robert Morris lead to 75-74 with 45.2 seconds left.

Myers-Pate converted a one-and-one to put the Colonials up 77-74 with 31.4 seconds left, but Francis' putback made it 77-76 with 14.4 seconds to play.

After a pair of Anderson free throws, Maynard's 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

Toole said the plan was to foul Bryant before it took the 3-pointer.

“We really haven't practiced that much yet,” Toole said. “They pushed the ball up fast, but Karvel did a great job tipping a ball out of bounce with 4.4 seconds left.

“We were hoping they'd pass it away from the hoop, but they went to the corner and Karvel was smart and didn't foul. They still got a good look. I thought it was in. It worked out well for us.”

Francis finished with a game-high 30 points, 20 in the second half. He had 10 rebounds. Maynard had 19 points and Starks 10.

Robert Morris won the first meeting 71-67 in Smithfield, R.I., on Jan. 11. Anderson scored 32 points in the contest, including the eventual game-winner with 38 seconds left.

The short-handed Colonials received a scare late in the first half when junior forward Lucky Jones fell hard to the floor attempting to block a shot. Jones lay on the floor while teammate Stephan Hawkins was making a fast-break dunk at the other end.

Jones returned in the second half.

Jones finished with five points on 1-for-12 shooting and needs seven points to reach 1,000 for his career.

Robert Morris was 16 for 17 from the foul line and outrebounded Bryant, 36-28.

Toole said he's had a couple of students come in to give them more bodies at practice. But he hasn't added them to the roster. He also doesn't seem in a hurry to reinstate Mike McFadden and Desjuan Newton, who left the team.

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