Blackbirds crush RMU’s NCAA tournament aspirations

The Robert Morris Colonials were just a single victory away from returning to the NCAA March Madness tournament for a conference record eighth time, but Long Island University had other plans, crushing RMU’s championship hopes with a 90-73 thrashing Wednesday night at the Wellness Recreation and Athletic Center on the campus of LIU-Brooklyn.

Both the Blackbirds and Colonials squared off in last season’s thrilling NEC title tilt, but unlike that three point game, Long Island did not need overtime to take care of business.

Julian Boyd, the NEC player of the year, torched the Colonials, scoring 18 points and grabbing ten rebounds en route to his club’s second straight and sixth overall league title, while freshman Lucky Jones and Coron Williams dropped 14 and 13 tallies respectively.

“Obviously we didn’t play Robert Morris basketball and at the biggest moment at the biggest time, we didn’t do what we do best,” explained RMU head coach Andy Toole after his club’s 17 point championship game loss. “We tried to play LIU’s game and we’re not better at that game than they are.”

Velton Jones got the ball rolling early for Robert Morris, running the length of the court for a layup one minute in. On the drive however, Jones collided with LIU’s Boyd and as a result, the redshirt junior fell hard to court, injuring his ribs on the play.

Jones would return to action a few minutes later, but because of the injury sustained, the 6-0 guard did not have as big of an impact on the game as he would have hoped.

Both teams matched one another shot for shot in the first half, but RMU jumped out to a two point advantage after Lijah Thompson converted two shots from the charity strike five minutes in.

The Colonials would then build a 19-15 lead three minutes later, but the Blackbirds quickly used a 13-0 run to take a 28-19 advantage late in the half.

Despite the fact that RMU kept the game close in the first twenty minutes of play, LIU dominated in the second half and didn’t allow the Colonials to come within ten points of knotting the score.

Throughout the contest, Robert Morris struggled to knock down shots, shooting a dismal 37% from the floor, while the Blackbirds hit more than half of the shots they attempted. The Colonials were plagued with foul trouble throughout the match, and lone senior Lawrence Bridges fouled out of his final collegiate contest with nine ticks remaining.

Toole added, “I feel terrible for our guys. I thought they were really ready to play tonight and I thought they gave great effort, we were just out of character.”

Although RMU was unable to return to the “big dance,” Coron Williams and Velton Jones were named to the all-NEC team for their performances throughout the tournament.