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RMU escapes Wagner in OT

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 10:24 p.m.

Of the 40 regulation minutes of Robert Morris' game against Wagner on Saturday night, the Colonials led for 39:38 of it.

For almost 30 of those minutes, they held a double-digit lead. During the remaining 22 seconds, the contest was tied. Even including overtime, Robert Morris never trailed.

It just didn't feel like it, particularly in the second half.

Russell Johnson and Lucky Jones each had 21 points as the Colonials dominated early but needed to hang on for an 83-79 overtime victory against Wagner at Sewall Center.

“‘Wow' would probably be the first reaction,” said coach Andrew Toole, whose team led by as many as 21. “I don't think we could have played any better in the first half — and I don't think we could have played any worse in the second.

“The thing about it is, we found a way to win the game.”

Robert Morris opened the game on a 12-2 run and held first-half leads of 18-4, 26-10 and 40-19. But it wasn't nearly as easy as the Colonials were making it look in the first half, when they shot 58 percent.

Robert Morris led, 42-27, at halftime and scored the first five points of the second half to extend its lead to 20. But Wagner was by far the better team from then on, shooting 61 percent and forcing 10 turnovers with its full-court press.

“The second half, they really turned the heat up on us,” forward Russell Johnson said.

Kenneth Ortiz and Latif Rivers had 22 points apiece for Wagner (13-10, 7-5 Northeast Conference), which lost its eighth consecutive at Robert Morris but almost won for the second consecutive trip to Allegheny County. The Seahawks upset Pitt, 59-54, on Dec. 23, 2011.

Velton Jones (shoulder) and Mike McFadden (personal) returned to the Colonials (17-8, 9-3) after missing Wednesday's 60-48 victory against St. Francis (Pa.), but junior guard Anthony Myers-Pate sat out with a concussion. The loss of one of the Colonials' primary ball-handers didn't help matters against a Wagner team that played with a forced desperation after falling behind.

“Their pressure tonight was extra-aggressive, extra physical, and we didn't handle it very well,” Toole said.

Robert Morris committed four turnovers over the final 3:40 of regulation.

Ortiz hit a runner with five seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 73, and Johnson missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that could have won it.

Lucky Jones had six of Robert Morris' 10 points in overtime.

The win, which clinched the Colonials' eighth straight winning season, pulled Robert Morris to within a half-game of NEC leader Bryant.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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