RMU starts quick, tops Sacred Heart
FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Losing one of the top players in the conference might hurt some teams but not Robert Morris.
With star guard Velton Jones on the bench in sweats, the Colonials used a team effort to fend off Sacred Heart, 68-63, in front of 1,349 fans Saturday at Pitt Center and move into a first-place tie in the Northeast Conference.
Karvel Anderson scored 13 points to lead four Colonials in double figures. Anthony Myers-Pate had 11 points. Mike McFadden and Lucky Jones each had 10.
The victory, coupled with Bryant losing to Wagner, pulled the Colonials (18-9, 10-4) into a tie with two-time defending champion LIU Brooklyn.
“It was a great team effort,” RMU coach Andrew Toole said. “Everyone that stepped on the floor contributed, and that's what you have to do to win games on the road.”
The Colonials also made the right amount of free throws, hitting 85.2 percent (23 for 27), including 17 for 19 in the second half. SHU was 24 for 41 from the line.
“Somewhere, we had to get a few more points,” SHU coach Dave Bike said. “I don't think it's stretching the issue when we look at the numbers what could we have done (better).”
After struggling with basically one arm in a 63-61 loss at Quinnipiac on Wednesday, Velton Jones (shoulder) was held out at Sacred Heart (9-15, 7-6).
“His shoulder is hurting, so we are trying to rest him and get ready to make a push at a championship,” Anderson said. “We knew coming in we wouldn't have him, and we had to have people pick it up.”
The Colonials responded, especially in the second half, when SHU went on a Shane Gibson-led 21-7 run after RMU led, 58-42, with 6:06 to play.
Gibson scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in those final minutes and pulled SHU within 65-63 with 1:15 left on a 3-pointer. Louis Montes added 15 points and Tevin Falzon 11.
“You just can't keep him quiet for long enough,” said Toole, whose team limited Gibson to just two first-half points. “Any time he has the ball, you just hold your breath.”
The Colonials raced out to a 7-0 lead and led by as much as 24-10 in the first half, aided by eight points apiece from Myers-Pate and McFadden. However SHU climbed back into the game with a 15-2 run and trailed, 30-27, at the half.
“I was missing some shots, but they play great defense, too,” said Gibson, who was 2 for 12 prior to getting hot at the end.
The Colonials might have to get used to winning without Velton Jones, who remains day-to-day.
“It's a thing we are going to have to try and evaluate again when we go back Monday,” Toole said. “It's just an unfortunate nagging thing. Hopefully, it can calm down or heal itself a little bit.”
William S. Paxton is a freelance writer.