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Robert Morris loses to last-place CCSU; Toole says Minnie likely booted off team

Paul Schofield
| Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, 9:18 p.m.
Robert Morris' Matty McConnell and Central Connecticut's Khalen Cumberlander go dive to the floor for a loose ball during the NEC game at the Sewall Center on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Colonials lose their 18th game of the season with the 65-60 heartbreaker.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Matty McConnell and Central Connecticut's Khalen Cumberlander go dive to the floor for a loose ball during the NEC game at the Sewall Center on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Colonials lose their 18th game of the season with the 65-60 heartbreaker.
Robert Morris' Matty McConnell drives and passes the ball as Central Connecticut State's Kevin Seymour defends on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Matty McConnell drives and passes the ball as Central Connecticut State's Kevin Seymour defends on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Isaiah Still puts up a shot with Central Connecticut State's Mustafa Jones defending Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Isaiah Still puts up a shot with Central Connecticut State's Mustafa Jones defending Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Billy Giles looks to score while guarded by Central Connecticut State's Evan Phoenix on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Billy Giles looks to score while guarded by Central Connecticut State's Evan Phoenix on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Steven Whitley reaches for a rebound against Central Connecticut State on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Steven Whitley reaches for a rebound against Central Connecticut State on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor loses the ball to Central Connecticut's Khalen Cumberlander on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor loses the ball to Central Connecticut's Khalen Cumberlander on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Central Connecticut State coach Howie Dickenman shows his displeasure with a call during the first half against Robert Morris on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Central Connecticut State coach Howie Dickenman shows his displeasure with a call during the first half against Robert Morris on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Suspended Robert Morris player Kavon Stewart sits on the bench with his teammates during a game against Central Connecticut State on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Suspended Robert Morris player Kavon Stewart sits on the bench with his teammates during a game against Central Connecticut State on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, at Sewall Center.

Another slow start led to another loss for Robert Morris.

Playing without starting junior point guard Kavon Stewart and sophomore center Elijah Minnie, both suspended for a violation of team rules, the Colonials fell to last-place Central Connecticut State, 65-60, on Thursday at Sewall Center in a Northeast Conference game.

Robert Morris (6-18, 4-7 NEC) fell behind 9-0 and never could catch CCSU (3-19, 2-9) despite another second-half comeback.

But the big news came after the game when Robert Morris coach Andy Toole announced Minnie will probably not be returning to the squad, and Stewart would be back for Saturday's game against Bryant. Minnie (Lincoln Park/Monessen), who was averaging 12 points, has been suspended numerous times during his two seasons.

“This is a place I have great respect for, and this is a program built through a lot of guys' blood, sweat and tears,” Toole said. “We've become a successful program, and I'm not going to let people who don't value the program be part of it.

“If you don't want to work and don't want to be part of what this program stands for, you can't be here. It's not about you.”

Toole said while it may hurt the team in the short term by shortening the bench, “we'll be much better in the long term.”

The slow start Thursday was too much to overcome once again for the Colonials.

The Colonials were down 36-13 in the first half before finishing with a 7-0 run to close to 36-20 by halftime.

Because of the suspensions, Toole was forced to start three freshmen along with junior college transfer Billy Giles and senior Rodney Pryor, who is still struggling in his return from a concussion.

“It was a disappointing first half,” Toole said. “The three practices prior to the game we talked about respect the game and play it the right way. We came out and completely disrespected the game with our effort and our urgency and found ourselves in a hole.”

Pryor was 1 for 10 from the floor, 0 for 8 from the 3-point line and finished with three points.

The Colonials were 8 for 32 from the field in the first half, including 2 for 17 from the 3-point line. They finished 23 for 64, and 5 for 29 from the 3-point line.

Robert Morris played another strong second half and slowly closed the gap to single digits behind a strong performance by Giles and freshmen Isaiah Still and Matty McConnell.

“True competitors want to win,” Toole said. “Matty is a competitor. He's getting to the point now where the only thing he's thinking about is how we can win the game.

“He's down here early shooting. He's trying to make a difference because he's not comfortable playing in this type of environment or situation of having a record of 6-18.”

McConnell said: “It's hard to let them get up (23 points) in the first half. We let them get comfortable, and they did whatever they wanted.”

McConnell reinjured his left shoulder in the first half but returned after a short break.

“My team needed me,” McConnell said. “I just couldn't sit there and watch. It's frustrating now, but I'll never get down on my teammates. We have to keep climbing and climbing and eventually we'll get over the hump.”

Still finished with a game-high 19 points, 12 in the second half. McConnell had 13 points, eight assists and five steals, and Giles scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.

Khale Cumberlander led CCSU with 18 points, and Austin Nehls had 17. Brandon Peel had 10 points and 17 rebounds.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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