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Robert Morris tops Monmouth 77-65

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Russell Johnson had 20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 blocks to lead Robert Morris over Monmouth 77-65. Lucky Jones added 19 points on six 3-pointers.

Robert Morris got a pair of 3-pointers from junior guard Karvel Anderson with under three and-a-half minutes to play to help pull away for a the victory, which placed the Colonials in sole possession of first place in the Northeast Conference.

Thanks to the win, the Colonials clinched a berth in the 2013 NEC Tournament and improved to 19-9 overall, including 11-4 in the conference. The Hawks, meanwhile, slipped to 10-18 overall and 5-10 in league play.

Stephen Spinella helped Monmouth close to within 62-60 with 5:28 to go, but the Colonials used an 8-1 surge to open up a 70-61 lead as redshirt senior forward Russell Johnson hit a jumper, followed by the back-to-back 3-pointers by Anderson.

RMU was able to seal the victory at the free-throw line, as junior guard Anthony Myers-Pate went 6-of-6 at the chalk in the final 41 seconds.

Robert Morris never trailed in the contest, opening up a 24-14 advantage at the 10:48 mark of the first half largely thanks to the outside shooting of sophomore forward Lucky Jones. Jones drilled five 3-pointers in the first half and finished the night 6-for-7 from beyond the arc in contributed 19 points to go along with seven rebounds.

Despite the double-digit lead, the Hawks closed to within 24-20 after a layup by Khalil Brown and eventually trailed at the break, 39-34.

In the second half, Robert Morris pushed its cushion to 46-37 after junior guard Coron Williams converted three straight free throws, but an 8-2 run helped Monmouth make it a one-possession contest, 48-45, with 13:34 to go.

Jones stemmed the tide for the Colonials with a three-pointer to give RMU a 51-45 edge, but the Hawks continued to battle, closing to within 53-52 with 10:14 remaining after a three-point play by Tyrone O'Garro.

O'Garro would again pull Monmouth within one, 55-54, with a layup with 9:23 to play, but a jumper from junior forward Mike McFadden and a 3-pointer by Johnson gave Robert Morris a 60-54 lead.

Spinella converted a runner in the lane at the 5:28 mark of the second half to trim Monmouth's deficit to 62-60, but RMU used its deciding 8-1 run to pull away as Anderson connected twice from beyond the arc.

Johnson led all scorers in the contest with 20 points for Robert Morris and also compiled seven rebounds, a career-high six steals and three blocks. In addition to the 19 points from Jones, Anderson also scored in double figures with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a 2-for-3 performance from deep.

Jesse Steele led the Hawks with 16 points, while Dion Nesmith added 14 points and Spinella scored 12.

The Colonials conclude the home portion of their 2012-13 regular-season slate Saturday, Feb. 23, with a 7:00 p.m. tip against Fairleigh Dickinson. RMU's Class of 2013 will be honored prior to the game as part of Senior Night festivities.

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