Robert Morris blasts Mount St. Mary's in NEC opener
Mount St. Mary's ended Robert Morris' NCAA Tournament dreams nine months ago by winning the Northeast Conference championship game at Sewall Center.
The five RMU players returning from that team didn't forget the night, and Saturday they exacted a little revenge.
Robert Morris raced out to a 22-point lead in the first half and handily defeated its visiting conference rival 70-45.
Mount St. Mary's, which has struggled shooting the ball this season, continued its shooting woes in the first half, missing its first eight shots and failing to reach double figures until Greg Graves' layup with 4:02 left in the first half with RMU up 30-8.
The Mountaineers' poor shooting continued through the game, finishing 13 for 52 (25 percent). They also turned the ball over 19 times.
“I'm satisfied we got the win, but we can play a lot better,” RMU senior forward Lucky Jones said. “We had too many lackadaisical plays and if we clean up some of the minor things, we'll be a lot better team.”
Robert Morris (5-8, 1-0), which led 36-16 at halftime, watched Mount St. Mary's cut the lead to 38-24 with 17:41 left. But two free throws by Rodney Pryor, and short jumpers by David Appolon and Jones pushed the lead to 44-24 and Mount St. Mary's never threatened after that.
“Obviously a great way to start conference play,” RMU coach Andy Toole said. “I was happy with the start. We were very active defensively and we shared the ball very well on offense. Getting stops early allowed us to control tempo.
“At halftime, we talked about not letting down and continuing to play. We did about as well of a job as we're capable of doing at this time. We stayed focused and finished the game the right way.”
Jones led four Colonials in double figures with 17 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Marcquise Reed and Pryor each scored 12, and freshman Elijah Minnie had 10.
“When we broke the huddle we said ‘new start,' ” Robert Morris junior forward Aaron Tate said. “It didn't matter what the nonconference record was, this was the beginning of the season. It was pretty satisfying to get that first conference win.”
Graves and Andrew Smeathers each scored 14 for Mount St. Mary's (4-8, 0-1).
It wasn't that the Colonials played a perfect first half; they fumbled away a couple of layups and missed some free throws, but they were able to dictate the pace of play and took advantage of Mount St. Mary's poor shooting to build a 36-16 lead.
Mount St. Mary's, which shot 22 percent in a loss at Old Dominion on Dec. 29, entered the game shooting 38 percent for the season. Over the last 20 minutes of its previous game and the first 20 minutes against the Colonials, the Mountaineers were 9 for 52 from the field.
Robert Morris turned the ball over 19 times, but a lot came on the fast break. The Colonials had 18 assists, seven by sophomore point guard Kavon Stewart.
“The more we can share the ball and move the ball and it started with Kavon,” Toole said. “He did a real good job of being aggressive, but under control. He got us going and the others also did a good job passing the ball. I'm very happy with 18 assists.”