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Robert Morris wins, takes over 1st place in NEC

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

Things haven't come easy for Robert Morris this season.

But somehow the Colonials have found ways to win games, and with three games left in the regular season, they sit atop the Northeast Conference.

Robert Morris (19-9, 11-4 NEC) defeated Monmouth, 77-65, on Thursday, which, combined with LIU Brooklyn's loss at Mount St. Mary's, moves the Colonials into sole possession of first place.

Even though senior point guard Velton Jones missed his second consecutive game with a shoulder injury and junior guard Karvel Anderson played with a painful wrist injury, Robert Morris pulled it together down the stretch.

That's because the Colonials, led by senior Russell Johnson and sophomore Lucky Jones, played together and continued to play well during crucial times.

Johnson scored a game-high 20 points and added seven rebounds, six steals and three blocked shots, and Lucky Jones finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Anderson, quiet for much of the game, made consecutive 3-pointers in a one-minute span that helped Robert Morris stretch a three-point lead to nine in the final 3:43.

“That's what you're going to get at the end of February against a well-coached, competitive team,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “It was a well-earned, hard-fought win.”

Robert Morris built leads of 10 twice in the first half, but Monmouth, which shot 49 percent, stayed close. The Colonials led, 39-34, at halftime as Jones scored 15 points. The Colonials shot 53 percent from the field.

The Colonials extended their lead to 48-39 with 15:03 left, but Monmouth closed to within 55-54 with 9:55 left.

Johnson, who scored 11 of his 20 points in the first half, hit a big 3-pointer with 8:01 left to quell any comeback.

“We run our plays and we have a lot of options of what we run and we look around and that's what was opened,” Johnson said.

Anderson shrugged off the nagging wrist injury to finish with 14 points.

“My wrist, I definitely felt pain after every shot,” he said. “I have confidence in my ability to make shots, and when I'm on the floor, I have to be able to play.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @pschofield_Trib.

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