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Belmont eliminates Robert Morris from NIT

| Friday, March 21, 2014, 11:52 p.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Short on players and without the same 3-point magic it displayed earlier in the week in a victory over •St. John's, Robert Morris ended its season Friday by dropping an 82-71 decision to Belmont in the second round of the NIT before 2,567 at Curb Event Center.

The No. 8 seed Colonials (22-14) were down to seven players because of the absence of David Appolon, out with a broken foot suffered Tuesday against St. John's.

They led early but wore down midway through the first half and never fully recovered. Robert Morris trailed by as many as 16 points in the second half yet managed to cut the deficit to single digits at 71-62 on a Karvel Anderson layup with 1:34 left.

“Our guys did everything asked of them even when they were tired,” RMU coach Andy Toole said. “We just wore down. There were times defensively we needed to make a big stop, but we were slightly slow in reacting. We got tired, and you could see it at the end of the game in our shots coming up short.”

It was an especially frustrating night for Anderson, a senior guard, who scored only seven of his team-high 23 points in the second half, twice going to the bench because of foul trouble. Anderson scored 38 points and hit nine of his team's record-tying 16 3-pointers in the victory over St. John's.

“It's tough even when we're playing with eight (players), and Belmont is such a deep team,” Anderson said. “Even when they had their subs in, they were playing at a high level.”

Belmont (26-9), which hit 24 of 25 free throws, advances to the third round of the NIT and will play the winner of Sunday's Clemson-Illinois game Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. J.J. Mann led the fifth-seeded Bruins with 25 points.

Lucky Jones scored 15 points, and Anthony Myers-Pate 14 for the Colonials.

Robert Morris didn't surprise anyone by firing away from behind the arc from the start, and for a while it worked. The Colonials hit five of their first six long shots but made only 1 of 9 the rest of the half as Belmont utilized its superior depth to build a 44-35 halftime lead.

Much of the first half was a seesaw battle of double-digit runs, starting with a 10-0 Belmont run that put the Bruins ahead 19-13.

Then it was RMU's turn. The Colonials ran off 12 straight points during a stretch in which Belmont coach Rick Byrd rested his starters. After Byrd put his starters back in, Belmont went on a 17-0 run to stretch its lead to 36-25.

Mike Towle is a freelance writer.

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