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Freshman Whitley scores career-high 16 points to give Colonials sweep of LIU Brooklyn

Paul Schofield
| Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, 9:44 p.m.
Robert Morris' Steven Whitley makes an acrobatic reverse layup past LIU Brooklyn's Nura Zanna on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Steven Whitley makes an acrobatic reverse layup past LIU Brooklyn's Nura Zanna on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Matty McConnell drives to the hoop as LIU Brooklyn's Martin Hermannsson pressures him on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Matty McConnell drives to the hoop as LIU Brooklyn's Martin Hermannsson pressures him on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor hangs on the rim after dunking against LIU Brooklyn on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor hangs on the rim after dunking against LIU Brooklyn on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Kavon Stewart is bumped hard by LIU Brooklyn's Jerome Frink on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Kavon Stewart is bumped hard by LIU Brooklyn's Jerome Frink on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Matty McConnell passes in the paint to Steven Whitley against LIU Brooklyn on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Matty McConnell passes in the paint to Steven Whitley against LIU Brooklyn on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Conrad Stephens and LIU Brooklyn's Jerome Frink go for a rebound Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Conrad Stephens and LIU Brooklyn's Jerome Frink go for a rebound Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Steven Whitley scores against LIU Brooklyn's Nura Zanna on Thursday.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Steven Whitley scores against LIU Brooklyn's Nura Zanna on Thursday.
Robert Morris' Kavon Stewart passes in the lane with LIU Brooklyn's Nura Zanna close by Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Kavon Stewart passes in the lane with LIU Brooklyn's Nura Zanna close by Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor scores against LIU Brooklyn's Jerome Frink on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor scores against LIU Brooklyn's Jerome Frink on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor hits a jumper against LIU Brooklyn's Joel Hernandez on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor hits a jumper against LIU Brooklyn's Joel Hernandez on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Billy Giles dunks the ball against LIU Brooklyn on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Billy Giles dunks the ball against LIU Brooklyn on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.

Robert Morris' Steven Whitley took advantage of fellow freshman Isaiah Still's three-game suspension.

Whitley started all three games in Still's absence, and he scored a career-high 16 points Thursday to help Robert Morris defeat LIU Brooklyn, 74-67, in a key Northeast Conference game at Sewall Center.

Whitley might get a few more starts.

It was the second time this season the Colonials (9-19, 7-8 NEC) have defeated the Blackbirds (13-13, 7-8) after winning 70-60 on Jan. 7 in Brooklyn. The Colonials are tied with LIU for seventh in the conference and have clinched a berth in the conference tournament with three games remaining.

Whitley converted two free throws with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left to give Robert Morris the lead for good at 59-58.

Kavon Stewart followed with a layup, and he assisted on a Rodney Pryor layup as the Colonials opened up a 63-58 lead, their largest to that point, with 2 minutes left.

The key to Whitley's success was listening to his coaches. He said he started attacking the hoop and good things happened.

“My percentage is higher shooting 2-pointers, so the coaches encouraged me to hunt more shoots in that area,” Whitley said. “I followed my details on the defensive end, and good things happened on the offensive end.”

The Colonials put the game away with good defense, rebounding and free-throw shooting. They made 9 of their last 10, Whitley was 5 for 6, and the team finished the second half 14 for 16.

“It was a really good effort for us from start to finish,” Colonials coach Andy Toole said. “We took care of the basketball, defended really well when we needed to and found enough offense.

“Rodney took what the defense gave him, and Diesel (Whitley) was incredibly active — moving, cutting, penetrating. The 16 assists to eight turnovers is something we haven't seen for a while.”

Rodney Pryor led the Colonials with 24 points and nine rebounds just missing his fourth consecutive double-double, but he also became the 24th RMU player to reach 1,000 points in his career.

“I feel extremely blessed after taking the junior college route,” Pryor said. “My teammates helped getting me the ball and helped give me confidence.

“Being able to do that in two years is difficult. You have to put in a lot of hard work, and there has to be a lot of consistency. It's a grind, mentally and physically.”

Stewart had 13 points and eight assists, Billy Giles finished with 11 points, and Matty McConnell had five assists and four steals.

But it was Whitley who stood out.

“Diesel was great,” Toole said. “He wants to shoot jump shots, and I want him to shoot layups. I said your nickname is Diesel, not Finesse.

“Go get layups. You're a big, strong, physical guy. Get down hill and try to get to the rim. He was active defensively. I was happy for him.”

The Colonials did a good job attacking the basket with Stewart and McConnell.

“We're not a good 3-point shooting team,” Toole said. “Our guards did a nice job dropping off when they got in the paint, and we had guys who were able to finish.”

LIU led 31-30 at halftime after a back-and-forth first half. Neither team was able to pull away until the Colonials did in the final minute.

Martin Hermannsson led LIU with 18 points.

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

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