Robert Morris tested by 'tough' Saint Vincent in exhibition game
Junior guard Matty McConnell on Monday scored a game-high 24 points and led Robert Morris to a 78-61 exhibition victory against Saint Vincent at Carey Center in Latrobe.
Shemar Bennett led Saint Vincent with 16 points. He did most of his damage in the second half, including a one-handed dunk after slipping free from McConnell at the baseline.
“We've only practiced nine days, so I'm still happy with where we are,” Saint Vincent coach D.P. Harris said. “With seven minutes to go, it was a six-point game. We're a bunch of Division III kids. … We have tough kids.”
After trailing by seven points at the half, Saint Vincent pulled within 32-30 on Jason Capco's 3-pointer. Robert Morris responded with a pair of 3s by McConnell.
McConnell and sophomore guard Dachon Burke are returning starters from last season's 14-19 team, which finished tied for fifth in the Northeast Conference.
Burke did not play Monday because of what coach Andrew Toole said was a lower-body injury. Burke is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
McConnell, who was the Tribune-Review's 2015 player of the year at Chartiers Valley, is the younger brother of Philadelphia 76ers point guard T.J. McConnell.
Saint Vincent last year went 21-7 and have won four of the past five Division III Presidents' Athletic Conference titles.
“That's the kind of test that you want in exhibition,” Toole said. “We're on the road. They had some energy in the building, and their guys were very excited to play the game.”
Slow to adjust to a 1-3-1 defense, Robert Morris went 6 1⁄2 minutes without hitting a field goal in the first half. That helped Saint Vincent pull ahead, 17-8.
“We weren't as in sync as we should have been,” McConnell said. “It was a little different 1-3-1 because they were shadowing a guy towards me, and we weren't hitting shots. It took us a while to get into a rhythm.”
Bearcats forward Tom Kromka, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound forward, muscled inside for eight points and neutralized Colonials forward David Cole (6-7, 240).
Saint Vincent went up by 13 points when Austin Dedert made a pair of foul shots with 6:16 left in the first half.
Robert Morris began winning rebound battles and quickly got back in sync. Malik Petteway grabbed five defensive rebounds down the stretch as Robert Morris went on a 21-8 run to close out the half.
McConnell had six points during the late spree, including a pull-up jumper that put the Colonials back in the lead.