Tate's tip-in at buzzer gives Robert Morris win over Central Connecticut St.
Everyone in Sewall Center held their breath as the ball bounced on the rim four times as the buzzer sounded to end Saturday's Northeast Conference game.
But when junior forward Aaron Tate's tip-in fell through the hoop, Robert Morris (13-13, 9-5) celebrated an improbable 53-52 comeback win against last-place Central Connecticut State (3-24, 1-13). Colonials players mobbed Tate, the team's most consistent player.
It was the only time the team led in the second half.
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole praised Tate's performance and thought he deserved to be the hero.
“We needed this game in the worst way,” said Toole, whose team pulled into a second-place tie in the NEC with Bryant, which lost Saturday to Mount St. Mary's. “It was nice to get a bounce go our direction.
“I'm very happy for Aaron. He makes the right decisions all the time. He has good collateral with the basketball gods.”
Tate could have stood around watching as freshman Marcquise Reed put up a shot with 2 seconds left. Instead, Tate went to the basket.
“Marcquise and Rodney (Pryor) usually make everything, so you can get caught watching the play,” Tate said about his first winning shot. “I told myself to get the rebound if he misses, and it worked out.”
The ball went to Reed with 5.3 seconds left. He drove into the lane and put up a floater that bounced off the back of the rim.
“I thought it was in when it left my hand,” Reed said. “But when it didn't, and Aaron tipped it, my heart stopped.”
Tate ended up on the bottom of the pile of players.
“I've never felt that before,” he said. “It was crazy. They almost squished me when I was on the bottom. It's supposed to be fun, but I was hurting.”
Central Connecticut State didn't resemble a last-place team. The Blue Devils played like the team conference coaches picked to finish second during the preseason.
“Central clearly deserved to win the game,” Toole said. “The last eight to 10 minutes we picked up our intensity, which was great to see. We played with more urgency down the stretch. It's amazing how that works.”
Robert Morris played without senior Lucky Jones, who was suspended for violating team rules. Toole didn't elaborate or indicate how long Jones would be out.
Toole said his team stood around too much in the first half.
The Colonials trailed 30-27 at halftime, then watched as Central Connecticut State stretched the lead to 44-33 with 13:20 left.
Matt Mobley, who finished with a game-high 23 points, did most of the damage against the Colonials. He hit five 3-pointers.
But the Colonials started to play better defense down the stretch, and their pressure seemed to bother the Blue Devils offense.
They also went on a 13-4 run, sparked by Reed, to close to within 48-46 with 6:18 left.
Faronte Drakeford (12 points) and Mobley hit buckets to push the lead to 52-46 with 3:21 left, but Central Connecticut State wouldn't score again.
“We needed one rebound, and we didn't get it,” Blue Devils coach Howie Dickenman said. “We played well, but Robert Morris started trapping us, and we didn't convert.”
Rodney Pryor (15 points) hit a 3-pointer with 3:07 left to cut the lead to 52-49, and Reed connected with 1:59 remaining to make it 52-51.
“It's important to bring energy every game,” Pryor said. “At this point in the season, it's all about effort. We held them to four points in the final four minutes. We've been struggling, but it was good to step up and get stops.”