Robert Morris clinches conference title with overtime win
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Robert Morris junior forward Lucky Jones wasn't having a great game Saturday against St. Francis (N.Y.)
But when his team needed him most, he delivered.
Jones scored after a Karvel Anderson air ball with 3.1 seconds left in overtime, and Robert Morris clinched the Northeast Conference regular-season championship for the second consecutive season with a 71-70 victory at Sewall Center.
The Colonials (18-11, 13-1 NEC) have clinched home-court advantage through the NEC tournament. They also are guaranteed a berth in the NIT if they don't win the tournament.
Anderson, who finished with a game-high 31 points, took a shot from the top of the key with 5.1 seconds left, but the shot fell short. Jones, who pulled down eight rebounds, grabbed the miss and flipped it to the rim.
The ball hung on the rim, then fell through the hoop.
“I want to give thanks to Aaron (Tate),” Jones said. “He told me to go to the hoop. You never know if the ball is coming out or not.That's what I did, and I was lucky enough to get the layup. I said, ‘Please go in.' ”
Jones said Anderson is the best player in the conference and he knew his 3-point shot would go in. But it didn't. Jones finished with 14 points.
“I just want to thank Lucky,” Anderson said about Jones' winning shot. “There isn't much to say. The play was set up for me, but I got overly excited. It was a big thing to win the championship on Senior Night. I'm just proud of my guys. We stayed together through everything.”
Anthony Myers-Pate (12 points and eight assists) said he told Jones 50 times coming up the steps to the interview room, “I love him.”
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole called it an incredible game.
“Fortunately, we were able to get one more shot to go,” Toole said. “The shot Karvel took at the end of regulation was a great look. The one in overtime I could tell was short because he didn't get his legs under him.”
St. Francis (16-13, 7-7) was a different team than the one the Colonials defeated by 22 points Feb. 8. The Terriers were missing four players from that game, including two starters.
Their strong inside game gave Robert Morris problems early. St. Francis raced to an 18-10 lead by making eight of its first nine shots.
The Colonials, led by Anderson's 17 first-half points, battled back to take a 28-26 lead. But St. Francis led at halftime 37-31.
The resilient Colonials weren't about to lose. Trailing 43-31 with 17:50 left, they went on a 19-6 run to grab a 50-49 lead with 9:34 left on a Jones 3-pointer. It was an Appolon (10 points) follow that got the Colonials going.
The lead changed eight times down the stretch and with the score tied at 62-62, Anderson's 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim, sending the game into overtime.
Robert Morris scored the first seven points of overtime, but a layup and free throw by Jalen Cannon gave St. Francis a 70-69 lead with 12.8 seconds left. Cannon and Lowell Ulmer, who averaged two points, finished with 18 points each.
Toole took the blame for not calling timeout in overtime when his team committed two costly turnovers that allowed St. Francis to come back.
That set up the winner by Jones.
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