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Robert Morris faces familiar foe in NEC championship game

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 10:24 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Lucky Jones hits a 3-pointer over Fairleigh Dickinson's Sidney Sanders in the first half of a NEC Tournament quarterfinal game Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at the Sewell Center.

Lucky Jones was a sophomore at St. Anthony's High School in Newark, N.J., the last time Robert Morris played the Northeast Conference championship game at Sewall Center.

But Jones knows his history relative to the championship game.

“Dallas Green hit the game-winning shot in a 48-46 victory against Mount St. Mary's,” Jones said Monday. “There is a feud between the teams through past history. We can't worry what happened in the past.”

Five years later to the day, No. 1 seed Robert Morris (21-12) and No. 5 seed Mount St. Mary's (15-16) will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday for the title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Robert Morris has won the two meetings this season by eight points (77-69 and 69-61). But in the NEC Tournament, the teams have split eight meetings. Mount St. Mary's, which defeated Robert Morris in the 2008 semifinals, beat the Colonials, 69-60, last year.

“I don't think we took Mount as serious,” Jones said. “We thought we had everything. We had home court, and it's hard to beat us at home. We have to understand this is a dangerous team.”

In both games this season, Mount St. Mary's has prevented RMU senior guard and NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson from making a major impact. Anderson had 12 points at Mount St. Mary's and eight points at Sewall Center.

Despite being held nine points under his average, Anderson has helped the Colonials win in other ways.

“They do a good job denying Karvel the ball or push him out further than he likes,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “They have good athletes and good minds for the game. Karvel has to learn from the two previous meetings. It's going to come down to who is more detailed offensively or defensively.”

Mount St. Mary's is one of eight teams in the nation with three active 1,000 point scorers: senior guards Julian Norfleet (1,581 points), Sam Prescott (1,181) and Rashad Whack (1,039). Whack averages 17.6 points and Norfleet 17.5.

Whack has been the player predominantly assigned to defend Anderson.

“Rashad is the one I see the most,” Anderson said. “With him, the most difficult part is getting the ball. He's the best at that. At first, teams were keying in on me. Now, there is always someone in my face, hugging me or holding my jersey and not give me separation at all.

“It opens up the rest of my teammates. Teams are learning that you can't beat us by just stopping 15 (Anderson's jersey number).”

Mount St. Mary' style is called ‘mayhem.' They want to speed teams up and force them into high-scoring games.

One thing the Colonials have done is slow Mount St. Mary's down. The Mountaineers averaged 75.9 points per game and 8.9 3-pointers. Against the Colonials, they're averaging 65 points and seven 3-pointers.

“They're a fast-pace team,” Jones said. “They like to speed you up and create chaotic stuff. But as long as we stay in control and stay ready for anything they throw at us, we'll be ready to take care of it.

The Colonials were forced to grind out wins against Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Francis (Pa.). They didn't shoot well in the first half against St. Francis, but used 21 points from Anderson in the second half to pull out a 60-57 win.

Mount St. Mary's rallied from 19 points down to defeat St. Francis-Brooklyn in the opening round. Then it went to second seed Wagner and upset the Seahawks.

“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to play for the NEC title,” Anderson said. “I feel very confident in our chances of winning and very secure in our game plan. We just have to go out and get it done.

“Going to the NCAA Tournament has been all of my teammates', including myself, dream. It's the reason that we play this game at this level. While other teams have to wait for Selection Sunday to see if they get the bid, we control our own destiny. It's on us if we get in or not.”

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

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