After shocking Kentucky, Robert Morris awaits Providence in NIT
Robert Morris basketball coach Andy Toole was relaxing Sunday afternoon in his hotel room in Providence, R.I., watching the NCAA Tournament on television.
And while he and his Colonials would rather be playing in the NCAAs, Robert Morris still was basking in the school's signature victory in the opening round of the NIT, a 59-57 upset of defending NCAA champion Kentucky.
Robert Morris (24-10) is in Providence to play the Friars (18-14) at 7 p.m. Monday at Dunkin' Donuts Center, the site of the Colonials' last NCAA appearance — a 73-71 overtime loss to Villanova in 2010.
It's a loss that seniors Velton Jones, Russell Johnson, Elijah Thompson and Treadwell Lewis, as well as Toole and assistant coach Robby Pridgen, were part of. Jones was the starting point guard, and Johnson was a reserve.
“It's a different situation, but the same building,” Toole said. “It was a game we played well in and lost.”
Toole said not knowing who the Colonials were going to play until Thursday allowed the players to enjoy the Kentucky win for an extra day.
“We've had some good workouts the past few days,” Toole said. “I was worried that we wouldn't be as focused as we were for Kentucky, but the players were locked in. They didn't forget about the preparation we had for Kentucky. We needed the same type of preparation for Providence.”
Providence beat Charlotte, 75-66, in the NIT first round. The Friars fell to Cincinnati, 61-44, in the Big East Tournament.
Junior guard Bryce Cotton averages 19.6 points, followed by junior center Kadeem Batts (14.8) and sophomore LaDontae Henton (13.2).
“We'll need another tremendous effort; a unified team effort,” Toole said. “Providence is capable of playing many ways.”
Toole isn't expected to make any lineup chances. Anthony Myers-Pate will start for the ailing Jones, who's bothered by a shoulder injury. Jones played against Kentucky, and it was his leadership that kept the Colonials together in the second half.
RMU junior forward Lucky Jones, who averages 11.9 points and scored 15 against Kentucky, didn't finish the game because of Flagrant II fouls called with a little more than three minutes left. Jones wasn't suspended by the NCAA and will be allowed to play. Junior guard Karvel Anderson is the Colonials leading scorer (12.3).
“I don't see why we should change the lineup; we started well with it against Kentucky,” Toole said.