Robert Morris whips Wagner to advance to NEC Tournament semis
The Robert Morris men's basketball team faced Wagner for the second time at home within a week, which did not enthrall Colonials coach Andy Toole.
The stakes were higher and so was the degree of difficulty. And to Toole's relief, the outcome was the same.
Seeded second in the NEC Tournament, RMU beat the No. 7 Seahawks, 91-68, at Sewall Center in a quarterfinal game Wednesday. The Colonials will host third-seeded Bryant at noon Saturday in the semifinals.
Last Thursday, the Colonials blistered Wagner, 91-59. The same pattern appeared to unfold as RMU led by as many as 18 points in the first half. But a cold snap helped Wagner get to within nine early in the second half.
Then a flurry of 3-pointers, one by Rodney Pryor and three in succession by Lucky Jones broke the game open. RMU built a 21-point lead with 12:39 to play and that was that.
Jones, a 6-foot-6 senior swingman who has embraced the role of sixth man after starting for much of his career, made 5 of 6 3-point attempts overall and finished with 27 points, tying a career high.
“I'm feeling comfortable, feeling great,” he said. “This is probably the best time to turn it up a notch.”
Seated on the bench as Wagner got closer, Jones said he and coach Andy Toole made eye contact. As Jones related it, “He looked at me and said, ‘You gotta pick it up. Are you ready?' I said, ‘Yeah,' and I went back in the game. I just wanted to make sure I was available for my team.”
Said Toole: “Lucky was first guy on the floor during shootaround (before the game) He was in the office last night watching film. He shot well in the shootaround. I felt if he got some good looks he'd be in good rhythm, and that's exactly what he did.
“He had great rhythm and great elevation on his jump shots. That's what seniors are supposed to do.”
The Colonials (17-14) shot 53.6 percent from the field, including 12 of 20 from 3-point range.
“It's tough to beat a team when they're shooting that well from the field,” Wagner coach Bashir Mason said.
Freshman guard Marcquise Reed made 3 of 4 3-point attempts and added 22 points. Pryor, averaging 25.2 points in his past four games, chipped in 15 and had a team-high eight rebounds.
Wagner (10-20) made it interesting for a while, but talent eventually prevailed. Guard Marcus Burton, the top scorer in conference games (19.2), made 1 of 6 first-half shots.
The Seahawks looked inside to 6-8 strong man Mike Aaman, a rough customer who has suffered seven concussions, two in high school and five in college. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Toole, meanwhile, said he wasn't thrilled about playing an opponent so soon after a blowout.
“I hate the way this kind of turned out, to be honest,” he said of the draw. “I was concerned about the maturity of our team. We've had a little bit of a thought process that if we do something well once, it should carry us through every time.
“At this point every game is a single entity. When you beat a team by a decent margin, it tends to motivate them in a major way.”