Providence bounces Robert Morris in NIT second-round game
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — After posting arguably the biggest victory in school history, Robert Morris couldn't follow it up on the road against a Big East team.
Providence rallied late for a 77-68 victory in the second round of the NIT on Monday before a loud crowd of 7,149 at Dunkin' Donuts Center.
“Proud of the effort our guys gave tonight,” RMU coach Andrew Toole said. “Unfortunately, we weren't able to make enough winning plays down the stretch.”
With 3:58 remaining in the game, the Colonials (24-11) got to within 65-64 after Russell Johnson made 1 of 2 from the line. From there, Providence (19-14) received five points from senior guard Vincent Council (12 points, 10 assists), including a nifty three-point play that made the score 70-64 with three minutes left.
Mike McFadden (14 points) got Robert Morris to within four points on a hoop in the lane but the Friars dominated the rest of the way. Junior forward Lee Goldsbrough's layup and a breakaway dunk from junior guard Bryce Cotton salted away the game.
After the hoop by McFadden, the Colonials missed their final six shots from the floor.
“I don't think we were detailed enough to come into a building like this and beat a Big East team,” Toole said. “I don't think we were as bad as losing the last 3:45 (a 12-4 disadvantage). A couple of tough breaks from loose ball/offensive rebound perspective; a couple of defensive breakdowns from a moving your feet/keeping guys in front of you perspective, and that really became the difference in the game.”
Two big differences that went against Robert Morris came at the free-throw line and rebounding. Providence made 31 of 36 free throws; RMU was 11 of 15. The Friars also outrebounded the Colonials, 43-18, including a 16-3 advantage on the offensive glass that led to a 10-0 difference in second-chance points for the Friars.
“It's hard to beat a team when they make 20 more free throws than you do and they go to the line 21 more times than you do,” Toole said. “We foul. I am not going to lie; we foul a lot. We also go to the basket as well. That's a pretty lopsided advantage.”
The Colonials used 3-pointers to stay in the game in the first half. RMU connected on 6 of 10 from behind the arc in the half, and all six either gave them the lead or extended the advantage. Coron Williams connected on 3-of-6 attempts from long distance, while Russell Johnson made 2 of 3 and finished with 10 points in the half.
But the Colonials saw a 29-23 lead with 4:22 left disappear before the break. Robert Morris looked like it would take a lead at the break after a 3-pointer from Williams with 35 seconds left, but Providence guard Bryce Cotton drilled a three from the top of the key with two defenders in his face to draw the Friars even, 34-34, at halftime.
Robert Morris finished the game with 11 3-pointers — four by Karvel Anderson (18 points) and three each from Williams and Johnson.
“That was as good a 3-point shooting team as we have faced all year,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “For us to overcome double-digit threes, you usually lose those games, especially in tournament games. I didn't think a team could hit 11 threes against us.”
Kevin Ryder is a freelance writer.