Colonials advance to NEC finals for fourth straight season

After his teams’ 87-68 win over Monmouth Thursday night, Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole stressed the importance of maintaining defensive energy if his team wanted to advance in the Northeast Conference tournament and because of RMU’s decisive seven point victory against Wagner in the semifinals in which the Colonials held WU to 34% shooting from the field, it’s safe to say that the message was received.

“It was really our defensive energy, holding them to 64 points and 31% from three,” explained Toole after his ball club’s come-from-behind win at the Spiro Sports Center Sunday afternoon. “We knew we had to make them shoot a difficult percentage from three because they really get energy from those 3’s.”

Velton Jones once again led the scoring charge for Robert Morris, tallying 25 points in the contest, while Russell Johnson and Coron Williams added 12 and 11 respectively. With the win, RMU improves to 24-9 and also posts the club’s 33rd all-time NEC post-season victory.

Robert Morris scored the game’s first points with a trey, but Wagner got hot early in the first and scored 13 of the contest’s next 19 points.

Williams then hit a three pointer from the wing to cut the deficit to two tallies three minutes later, but the Colonials were unable to tie the contest. RMU kept it close and had the opportunity to go into the locker room up by one, but Brandon Herman’s pull up three hit the front of the iron and bounced out as time expired.

Despite starting out slow in the first half, Robert Morris jumped out to an early 11-1 run to begin the final 20 minutes of regulation and never looked back.

The Colonials led by as much as nine late in the game as Lucky Jones snagged an offensive rebound and banked it off the glass for a 59-50 advantage. The Seahawks would not go away quietly however, and battled back, but Velton Jones sealed the contest by sinking three attempts from the foul line with less than a minute remaining to send his team back to the title game.

Toole added, “This game didn’t have a whole lot if flow to it and there were a lot of whistles, but it was a great win for our guys. I’m so excited for them and the effort they gave today.”

Coach Toole doesn’t mind playing Long Island in the conference finals, despite the fact that the Blackbirds downed RMU in last season’s title game. Although LIU defeated the Colonials in the 2011 championship tilt, RMU got the upper hand this year thanks to a 75-66 win at the Sewall Center on January 26. According to the Robert Morris skipper, the Colonials are just glad to once again vie for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“Our guys are really excited to go back and compete for a championship,” added Toole. “We’re happy to be there and will have two great days of preparation and will go out and play as hard as we can.”