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Robert Morris cruises past St. Francis in NEC Tourney opener 75-57

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Karvel Anderson scored 20 points and Russell Johnson added 19 and 7 rebounds to lead Robert Morris to a 75-57 win over St. Francis-NY in the quarterfinals of the Northeast Conference Tournament.

Moon Twp.—Never expect less and you’ll never be disappointed.

If ever you were fishing for a motto, that might be it for Robert Morris’s dominant stretch in the Northeast Conference Tournament, and Wednesday night was no different.

Racing out to a near-perfect start from beyond-the-arc, the No. 1 seeded Colonials (23-9) got up early and never looked back against No. 8 St. Francis-Brooklyn, wiping them out 75-57 in the NEC Quarterfinal round at the Sewall Center.

Karvel Anderson, who led the Colonials with 20 points off the bench, helped the team to a 4-of-6 start from 3-point land, knocking down two early, pushing RMU’s lead to double-digits before the first media timeout.

“I thought it was a terrific team effort,” said coach Andy Toole. “Our starting group got us going on both ends of the floor. We did a nice job taking away their ability to hit 3’s and open up better opportunities for us to make shots.”

Forwards Russell Johnson and Lucky Jones terrorized the Terriers from start-to-finish as the front court tandem combined for 35 points and 14 rebounds, going 5-of-10 from 3-point territory.

“We are a team that shoots 3’s and they really weren’t getting out on us,” said Jones. “We just did what we do.”

As a team, RMU shot 28-of-63 (44.4%), with 31 3-point attempts added to the slew of shots.Photo by Justin Berl

“We keep shooting tons of 3’s and it is not necessarily what we are looking to do but it was there,” Toole said. “They played zone on us, leaving guys open. Seemed to be what the defense gave us, so the guys took it.”

“It was there so we took it,” said Anderson, who went 8-of-14 from the field in 23 minutes of play. “They left us open so we took advantage of it. We look to take the best shots and I think we did a good job of doing that tonight.”

The Colonials, who were out-shot and out-rebounded in a 71-61 loss to St. Francis Jan. 31, took full advantage in the paint, out-rebounding the Terriers 38-35, with 15 on the offensive glass, accruing for 22 second-chance points.

“They ran a zone and I we knew how they would position to box out underneath,” said Johnson, who tied with a game-high seven boards. “We just got position, looked for the rebound and tried to get as many shots as we could until we finished.”

With the score cut down to a nine-point deficit and four minutes left in the half, RMU used a fastbreak-heavy 8-0 run going into the first minute of the second half, keeping St. Francis from ever seeing single-digits again.

“Obviously we knew this was going to be a difficult game,” stated St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Glenn Braica. “Robert Morris is playing great, and personally I think they are going to win the tournament. I don’t see a lot of weaknesses in their team, from coaching to shots to rebounding.”

All-conference forward Jalen Cannon finished as the only St. Francis starter to crack double-figures, scoring 15 points with 6 rebounds. 

RMU senior guard Velton Jones had just 3 points on 1-of-4 shooting for the Colonials, but dished out a game-best eight assists in 26 minutes of play.

Home Cookin’
Since Toole took over the head coaching job at Robert Morris, the success at home as been almost bulletproof, boasting a 22-6 conference home record in that span.

A 5-2 record and a perfect 3-0 home record in conference tournament play, Toole’s only losses came to LIU-Brooklyn, both in the NEC finals in back-to-back years.

Having home court advantage through the duration of the NEC Tournament is not only an important nod for Toole and the statbook, but also the players who soak in the idea of sleeping and preparing at home.

“You get to sleep in your own bed, chill in your own room and relax,” Jones said. “You don’t have to go back to a hotel or anything. That is something we’ve been trying to do -- get that home court advantage, because it makes it a lot better staying at home for all of this.”

Next Up
Mount St. Mary’s (17-13) will travel to Pittsburgh to face the Colonials at the Sewall Center on Saturday, March 6 at 2:30 PM in an NEC semifinal matchup. That game can be Photo by Justin Berlwatched on ESPN3. The other semfinal matchup will be LIU-Brooklyn (18-13) at Wagner (19-11).

Toole discussed what he expects to see from MSMU.

“I said earlier this week that (Mount St. Mary’s) was playing the best basketball in our league and they proved me right. They are a team that creates chaos on the floor. If you get in complete chaotic mode against them, it is to their advantage and that is an issue for any team. We haven’t handled the press well this year and we’re going to see it a lot Saturday afternoon.”

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