Robert Morris rallies past conference foe St. Francis (Pa.) on road
LORETTO — If the Robert Morris men's basketball team wants to play at least one home game in the Northeast Conference playoffs, then it must find a way to be more consistent down the stretch.
That started Wednesday night against St. Francis (Pa.) in round one of rivalry week in the NEC. The Colonials (18-8, 9-4) used a big second-half rally and held on to defeat St. Francis (5-19, 4-9), 78-74, at DeGol Arena.
It was the Colonials' eighth consecutive victory in the series and eighth consecutive victory at St. Francis. The teams meet again at 7 p.m. Saturday to conclude rivalry week.
Over the past few weeks, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole has been preaching consistency, especially on defense. He got that during the final 10 minutes of the team's last game at Mt. St. Mary's, and he was hoping to get the same last night.
It didn't happen during the first 18 minutes of the game. St. Francis shot 68.4 percent from the field and opened a 35-24 lead and settled for a 35-30 lead at halftime.
But the Colonials turned things around over the next 11 minutes, as they went on a 32-10 run to grab a 56-45 lead with 11:15 left.
The Colonials' defense keyed the big run. On four consecutive St. Francis possessions , Robert Morris came up with steals and layups to open the lead.
"The object is to win the game, and we found a way," Toole said. "The defense still allowed them to shoot 61 percent. Sure, they made some tough shots, but our energy level was not good."
Robert Morris was leading, 67-57, with 5:45 left before St. Francis made one final run. The Red Flash kept pecking away at the Colonials' lead. But each time they'd get close, the Colonials would make shots.
Coron Williams, who finished with 13 points, hit a 3-pointer and later hit two clutch free throws with 7.8 seconds left to seal the victory. Velton Jones, who didn't score in the first half, made two big free throws with 15.1 seconds left. Jones, who was playing with a mask after breaking his nose last week at Wagner, scored eight points and had eight assists.
"It was the first time he wore it in a game," Toole said. "It affected his shooting. He still made some great decisions when they collapsed on him the paint."
Mike McFadden, who scored the Colonials' first seven points of the game, and Lucky Jones each scored 14 points.
St. Francis coach Don Friday was disappointed with the loss, mainly because his team committed 17 turnovers.
"Stupid loses more games than smart wins," Friday said. "We have to grow up. During crunch time, we didn't match their intensity. We have to develop that. We backed off."
Anthony Ervin led St. Francis with 20 points, 15 in the second half. Freshman guard Stephon Whyatt scored 11 points in the opening half and finished with 15 points, while Scott Eatherton had 10.