Robert Morris men slow Northeast Conference leader Long Island at Sewall
When Robert Morris decides to play shut-down defense, the Colonials are hard to beat. First-place Long Island learned that Thursday night.
The top offense in the Northeast Conference struggled against the NEC's leading defense, and the result was the end of the Blackbirds' nine-game winning streak.
Robert Morris held Long Island 13 points under its average and posted a convincing, 75-66 victory before 1,845 at Sewall Center, the largest regular-season crowd in years.
"The crowd was awesome, and I hope they comeback Saturday night (against St. Francis, N.Y.) and bring a friend," coach Andy Toole said. "We're an entertaining basketball team when we play like we did (last night)."
The Colonials (16-6, 7-2) never trailed and controlled the tempo throughout. Junior guard Velton Jones, who scored 21 points, opened the game with a 3-pointer to ignite the offense.
"Robert Morris played at a higher level than we've seen them play in the past," Long Island coach Jim Ferry said. "They set the tone and played with a sense of urgency. The deserved to win this game, and Velton's 3 got them going."
The Colonials used runs of 8-0 and 6-0 to grab a 34-26 lead at halftime. Jones led the way with 11 points in the half.
"Long Island is a pretty good basketball team and, if we didn't play with the intensity that we played with, we might have lost," Jones said. "We knew this was a big game, and we played with composure."
While Julian Boyd (25 points) and Jamal Olasewere (18 points) did their part for Long Island (14-7, 8-1), the rest of the team struggled. Sharp-shooting guard Michael Culpo was 0 for 10 from the field, including 0 for 7 on 3-pointers.
"We were very sharp on defense, and we hadn't been at times this season," Toole said. "I think our offense helped our defense."
The Colonials had 11 steals and forced 19 turnovers. Jones handed out seven assists.
Coron Williams, who was 1 for 5 from the field in the first half, got hot in the second, going 3 for 5. He finished with 14 points, and freshman Lucky Jones had 10.
"Coach keeps telling me to shoot," Williams said. "If I miss a shot, he tells me the next one will fall. If I'm hitting, it helps the other guys on the team."