Robert Morris beats FDU to open NEC Tournament

RMU's Lucky Jones (right) dives for a loose ball in front of Fairleigh Dickinson's Mustafaa Jones in the first half Wednesday, March 5, 2014, at the Sewall Center.
RMU's Lucky Jones (right) dives for a loose ball in front of Fairleigh Dickinson's Mustafaa Jones in the first half Wednesday, March 5, 2014, at the Sewall Center.
Photo by Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Paul Schofield
| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:42 p.m.

Robert Morris faced another challenge Wednesday in the opening round of the Northeast Conference Tournament.

The Colonials didn't get a point from NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson, but found a way to defeat Fairleigh Dickinson, 60-53, at Sewall Center.

Anderson, who missed all three of his shots from the field in the first half, played sparingly in the second half. He didn't touch the floor for the final eight minutes.

Colonials coach Andy Toole said Anderson felt ill during the game and he wasn't effective on the floor.

“We had to put in people that were going to be effective,” Toole said. “I hope Karvel is better. I would be surprised if he wasn't.”

Robert Morris (20-12) instead got a big game from junior Lucky Jones, who scored a game-high 19 points.

Jones hit his first shot of the game, and worked hard to regain his confidence after going 1 for 15 from the floor in a loss to Wagner and struggling with his shooting down the stretch.

“I kind of got my confidence back when we came back from Wagner,” Jones said. “Immediately that night, Chuck (Oliver) and I went into the gym, and we started shooting a lot of shots. I knew coming into the game I had to stay confident. When I didn't think about it, it went in.”

The Colonials advance to the semifinals at 2 p.m. Saturday where they will host sixth-seeded St. Francis (Pa.), which upset Bryant, 55-54.

Senior Anthony Myers-Pate chipped in with 10 points, including 4 for 4 from the foul line in the final 24.3 seconds.

“The theme of this game was war, and we focused and locked in on that,” Myers-Pate said. “We knew they'd come out fighting. They thought they had the game last week and let it slip away.

“We knew they had confidence, but we stuck together as a family and it goes to show that team is more powerful than individuals.”

The Colonials needed a 22-2 run to erase a 15-point deficit in a 69-64 win at Fairleigh Dickinson in the regular season.

Myers-Pate also added he expects a different Anderson on Saturday.

“I have confidence going into the next game that's he's going come out with some fire,” Myers-Pate said. “It's not going to be pretty for our opponent. Even though he did score, he did a lot of other things. Everyone stepped up when they need to.”

The Colonials took the lead for good with 5:47 left in the first half when Jones hit a 3-pointer and a field goal to snap a 15-15 tie. They never trailed, though FDU kept it close.

Robert Morris led 26-24 at halftime and for between six and eight points for much of the second half. The Colonials' largest lead of the game was 54-44 with a minute left on a layup by David Appolon.

“I'm proud of the guys, figuring out away to get enough defensive stops down the stretch,” Toole said. “We knew it would be a hard-fought game.

“We've found a variety of ways to win this year. No two games are going to be the same. As we go through this, everyone has to be ready and prepared when their opportunity comes.”

Sidney Sanders Jr. led Fairleigh Dickinson (10-21) with 16 points, 13 in the second half. Scooter Gillette had 15 points and Mathias Seilund added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Fairleigh Dickinson was 9 for 27 from the field (33.3 percent) in the first half and finished 20 for 55 (36.4). Robert Morris was 22 for 47 (46.8) from the field.

“Our team got beat by a strong defensive performance effort by Robert Morris,” FDU coach Greg Herenda said. “We did everything except put the ball in the basket. We expected to win. They were in a defensive groove.”

Robert Morris outrebounded Fairleigh Dickinson, 33-30. The Colonials turned the ball over 16 times.

Jones and Appolon each had four assists.

“We played like a team that was afraid to lose,” Toole said. “We have to relax and play the game. We were on edge.”

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