Robert Morris drops second straight; falls to Wagner on road
NEW YORK — It couldn't have been a worse time for Robert Morris to run into defensive issues.
The Colonials, who entered the game as the Northeast Conference's top defensive team at 63 points per game, surrendered 44 points in the first half to Wagner en route to an 80-69 defeat Thursday night at Spiro Sports Center.
The Colonials' second consecutive loss could prove to be costly come NEC tournament seeding time, as they dropped two games out of second place.
Brandon Herman came off the bench to lead Robert Morris (16-8, 7-4) with 11 points, and Mike McFadden added 10 and team-high six rebounds.
The Colonials opened the game by going 1 of 12 from the floor, and season scoring leader Velton Jones, who came into last night averaging 17.4 points per game, was 2 of 15 from the floor while scoring just nine points.
With the defeat, the Colonials trail Wagner (18-4, 9-2) and St. Francis (N.Y.) (12-10, 9-2) in the NEC and are in a fourth-place tie with Central Connecticut (10-11, 7-4). Long Island (16-7, 10-1) leads the NEC.
But it wasn't the conference tournament, which begins March 1, that was on Robert Morris coach Andy Toole's mind after his team trailed by double digits for most of the game and was outrebounded, 34-25.
"The way we're playing right now and with what's going on with our players, the league can give us any seed they want," he said. "We'd be happy to just make the tournament."
The Colonials trailed, 14-2, and the team's play frustrated Toole so much that the second-year coach replaced his starting five with five reserves.
"The way they got off, maybe we have to reassess our starters," said Toole, whose club heads to Mount St. Mary's (6-16, 4-7) for a game Saturday. "We made mistakes and then compounded things by making the same mistakes again."
The Colonials closed to within 18-12 on a Brandon Herman three-point play at the 8:10 point of the first half, but Wagner then zipped off a 19-10 run. It began with a tip-in by their 5-foot-11 point guard Kenny Ortiz and ended on three of game-high scorer Latif Rivers' 15 made free throws.
Wagner led, 44-30, at the half after shooting 60 percent from the floor and extended its advantage to 52-35 early in the second half.
And even when Robert Morris battled to within 71-65 with 2:09 remaining, it didn't feel like a legitimate threat.
"It was a lack of energy," Toole said. "And it's something we are going to have solve before we worry about anything like the playoffs."
Rivers led Wagner with a season-high 28 points, as the Seahawks won their 11th game in their past 12.