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Colonials fall to Central Connecticut State 74-73

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Robert Morris surrendered an eight-point lead in the final two minutes as Central Connecticut State rallied to deal the Colonials their first conference loss, 74-73, Saturday afternoon at the Sewall Center.

Over the past two weeks, basketball for Robert Morris has been marred by the yearlong suspensions of four players and the ongoing absence of two more.

This has caused Colonials fans to ask the question, “Why does our team only have eight players?” more often than the question, “Who are the Colonials playing tonight?”

The Colonials played Central Connecticut State Saturday evening, and blew a 16-point lead in the final 8:31 to lose 74-73 before 1,473 at the Sewall Center.

Amidst all the turmoil, the Colonials (13-10, 7-1) have remained the first place team in the Northeastern Conference, but Robert Morris coach Andrew Toole didn’t accept any sympathy for his team’s current situation.

Toole said his players lost a sense of urgency when it mattered the most, saying the “happy go-lucky” mentality his players exhibited must come to a stop.

“We have a mentality as a team that when things are going our way and things are going good, that we want to kick our feet up and relax,” Toole said after the loss. “Our first goal in our program is sustain effort. We did not sustain effort today, and that’s why we lost the game.”

The Blue Devils inched their way back into the game in the second half, and cut Robert Morris’ lead to seven with 3:07 to play on a 3-pointer by freshman Matt Mobley.

The Blue Devils then issued a quick foul, sending Kavon Stewart to the line, who hit both, but in a matter of seconds, CCSU’s Malcolm McMillan made a 3-pointer, cutting the Robert Morris lead to 70-65.

With 1:10 remaining, McMillan hit a jumper to bring the Blue Devils within four, and Khale Cumberlander collected his 18th point of the evening on a contested 3-pointer, making it a 2-point game.

The Blue Devils then issued a hard foul on Jones during RMU’s inbounds play, and Jones placed his hand to his eye in pain.

Jones got the first attempt to rattle in, but the second one was no good, and the Colonials clung to a 72-67 lead.

“You can see our lack of urgency,” senior guard Karvel Anderson said.

McMillan was able to split defenders on the next possession, and in the center of the key, he got a left-handed layup to fall, setting up a nightmarish final possession for the Colonials in which CCSU was not forced to foul.

“We came out very casually defensively and it didn’t hurt us until we really needed to try and turn it up,” Toole said. “And sometimes, when you’re not fully engaged and fully focused for an entire 40 minutes, when you go to flip that switch, there’s nothing there.”

With 42 seconds remaining, the Colonials, indeed, had nothing there.

Robert Morris wound the clock down to 16 seconds, and called timeout. They arrived back on the floor in the midst of a broken play, and Anderson hoped to extend the unbeaten Colonials’ magical run with a step-back jumpshot from the left side of the key, but the ball rimmed out to Mobley with nine seconds left.

Mobley weaved his way around several Colonials, and was fouled going in for a layup by Anderson.

With two seconds left, Mobley hit both free throw attempts to put the Blue Devils up 74-73, handing the Colonials their first loss in a month.

McMillan had seven points in the game’s remaining 2:14.

“He just basically took the game in his hands,” Jones said.

Nonetheless, Jones, a 6-foor-6 junior from Newark, NJ., led all scorers with 22 points.

“It’s just a lesson to be learned,” said Jones, who joined Robert Morris’ 1,000-point club on the evening. “It’s not the end of the world. We didn’t just lose the championship game, we didn’t lose the regular season championship. Everything’s still in place.”

Anderson was two points shy of registering his 11th 20-point performance of the season. Anderson had 18.

Robert Morris now has to prepare for a one-week road stretch containing three games against LIU Brooklyn, St. Francis (NY) and St. Francis U.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to take [into the stretch] maybe other than trying to do the polar opposite of the way we finished the game today,” Toole said. “We could be in fourth place by Sunday. That’s what [my team doesn’t] understand.”

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