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Mount St. Mary's downs RMU in NEC semifinals

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 5:30 p.m.
Mount St. Mary's Kelvin Parker dunks against Robert Morris during the second half of their NEC Tournament semifinal game Saturday, March, 9, 2013, at the Sewall Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Tribune-Review
Mount St. Mary’s Sam Prescott dunks against Robert Morris during the second half of their NEC Tournament semifinal game Saturday, March 9, 2013, at Sewall Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Robert Morris' Russell Johnson is defended by Mount St. Mary's Kristijan Krajina (left) and Kelvin Parker during the first half of their NEC Tournament semifinal game Saturday, March, 9, 2013, at the Sewall Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Velton Jones drives against Mount St. Mary's Rashad Whack during their NEC Tournament semifinal Saturday, March 9, 2013, at Sewall Center. Jones and the Colonials take on defending national champion Kentucky in the NIT on Tuesday.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Velton Jones goes after a loose ball againt Mount St. Mary's during the second half of their NEC Tournament semifinal game Saturday, March, 9, 2013, at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Velton Jones is defended by Mount St. Mary's Julian Norfleet during the first half of their NEC Tournament semifinal game Saturday, March, 9, 2013, at the Sewall Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Mount St. Mary's Kristijan Krajina blocks Robert Morris' Mike McFadden during their NEC Tournament semifinal game Saturday, March, 9, 2013, at the Sewall Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

With an NCAA Tournament bid seemingly within its grasp, Robert Morris fashioned perhaps its most uneven performance of the season in the Northeast Conference Tournament semifinal on Saturday at Sewall Center.

The top-seeded Colonials stumbled early, then fizzled near the finish in a 69-60 loss to fifth-seeded Mount St. Mary's.

Robert Morris defeated Mount St. Mary's, 76-68, in the regular season, but the Colonials didn't resemble the team that led the conference in scoring defense — including defending the 3-point arc.

“It was not a good time to play your worst game of the season,” RMU coach Andrew Toole said. “They stayed true to their formula and they deserved to win the game.”

The Colonials (23-10) earned their way into the National Invitational Tournament by virtue of winning the NEC regular-season title.

The Mountaineers (18-13) feasted from long range, making 8 of 17 attempts from beyond the arc. Robert Morris, the conference's top 3-point shooting team, made only 5 of 19 treys and shot just 26 percent for the game.

More important, the Colonials were lured into a fast-paced game with the Mountaineers, who controlled the tempo. Mount St. Mary's, which will play LIU Brooklyn on Tuesday in the NEC finals, executed better in the half court, too, getting easy field goals in the paint to shoot 45 percent from the floor.

“They did a good job of taking away out strength (3-point shooting),” Toole said. “We didn't do a good job of countering. I think we have a group of guys who don't want this to be the game they remember.”

The Mountaineers were quicker and outhustled the Colonials in building a 29-23 lead at halftime, and held RMU's top scoring threats — Velton Jones and Karvel Anderson — to a combined eight points on 2 of 11 shooting.

Jones finished with only eight points on 2 of 17 shooting and a season-low one assist.

“I just couldn't make shots,” Jones said. “I was trying to figure it out. They like to press. They try to wear you down. I think they did a good job of that.”

Anthony Myers-Pate led RMU with 15 points while guard Rashard Whack paced Mount St. Mary's with 26 points, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.

“We tried to get into them and not allow them to make comfortable threes and make them play off the bounce a little bit,” Mountaineers coach Jamion Christian said.

Still, the Colonials rallied after falling behind, 56-36, with 4:54 remaining. They put together a 15-2 run to cut the Mountaineers' lead to 58-51 with 2:32 left, but they couldn't finish the comeback.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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