Colonial Talk: RMU vs Bryant (MBB NEC Semifinal)

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Colonial Talk: RMU vs Bryant (MBB NEC Semifinal)

Kavon Stewart performed when it counted, sending RMU to the NEC Championship game.

Kavon Stewart performed when it counted, sending RMU to the NEC Championship game.

Kyle Gorcey

Kavon Stewart performed when it counted, sending RMU to the NEC Championship game.

Kyle Gorcey

Kyle Gorcey

Kavon Stewart performed when it counted, sending RMU to the NEC Championship game.

Zach Laufer, Copy Editor

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Final score: Robert Morris  66   Bryant  53

Top performers: 

G Kavon Stewart (RMU) – 19 points, 8 assists, 7 steals

G Dyami Starks (Bryant) – 19 points, 3 rebounds

G Rodney Pryor (RMU) – 12 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds

Stewart comes up huge: The sophomore point guard out of Paterson, N.J. came into this semifinal game against Bryant averaging only 5.7 points per game. Today, Kavon Stewart nearly quadrupled that. Not only did he set a new career high in points (19), but Stewart also captured another career-high in steals (7), adding a modest eight assists to the cause. After coming up a few steals and assists shy of a triple-double, Stewart posted what can definitely be described as his best performance as a collegiate player.

“I just wanted to come out, be aggressive,” said Stewart, “and I know it starts with me on the defensive end and the offensive end. I just wanted to come out with tons of energy.”

His coach echoed how key his performance was. “It was the most important performance of his career,” said head coach Andy Toole. “The stats obviously jump off the page at you, but there was so much more that he provided for us today. It was incredible.”

Energy, energy, energy: In the most important parts of the game, energy seemed to be a key factor in propelling the Colonials, whether a hustle play to get a rebound or a dive to pounce on a loose ball. Following the win, energy also came up many a time in RMU’s press room.

“I think when Ka[von Stewart]’s hooked up and he’s full of energy, everybody else is full of energy,” said junior guard Rodney Pryor. “And that encourages us to get more stops.”

Bulldogs tired?: The Bryant Bulldogs came into this semifinal match-up fresh off a thriller against Sacred Heart in the quarterfinal. A buzzer-beating three-point shot sent the game into overtime, but one extra period wasn’t even enough. Only in the second OT did Bryant eventually pull away. This made many question how fresh the Bulldogs were, also having to travel away from home.

“I believe they played, like, six more games than anybody on our team,” said junior Lucky Jones,  “so it had to sink it at some point during the game that their legs were gonna get a little shot.”

“Some of those guys have logged a lot of minutes,” said coach Toole. “Coming down the stretch, we thought if we could be intense, we thought if we could run them off the three-point line, make them extend possessions, that it might work in our favor.”

Turning point: Near the 11 minute mark of the second half, the five point RMU lead had vanished, with Bryant taking advantage of the somewhat stagnant Robert Morris offense. The lead kept veering back and forth, that is, until one series of events put the Colonials in the driver’s seat. Jones hit a three to tie the game at 43, then tipped a Bryant pass, dove on the floor to control it, and safely passed it up the court to Stewart. Stewart, as he did successfully very often in the game, fed Marcquise Reed for an easy transition layup. This sent the crowd and the RMU bench into a frenzy. From that moment, everything seemed to click for Robert Morris, and it showed by the 13 point victory.

The Final: Robert Morris pulled away in the closing minutes of its semifinal contest with Bryant. The team knew it could not simply run out the clock with six minutes left; aggressiveness was key.

“Once we got things going, we said, ‘We gotta step on their throat. We can’t let it stay close,'” said Pryor.

“When there was five-and-a-half, six minutes left, we knew that there was a lot more basketball to play,” said coach Toole. “We had to stay urgent, we had to keep playing, we had to finish the game the right way.”

Capping off the win is a trip to Brooklyn Heights to take on the NEC regular season champion St. Francis Brooklyn in the NEC championship game. This one will punch the winning team’s ticket to the craziest tournament in sports: the NCAA Tournament.

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