It was a rematch of last season’s Northeast Conference title game, but unlike 2011’s thrilling three-point overtime victory for the Long Island University Blackbirds, Robert Morris avenged last year’s championship loss and downed LIU 75-66 in a one-sided affair Thursday night in front of a full house at the Charles L. Sewall Center.
Velton Jones led RMU with 23 points, including a 3-5 performance beyond the arc, while Coron Williams and Lucky Jones each added 13 and 10 points respectively for a Colonials team that won its fourth consecutive contest and 16th overall game of the 2011-2012 campaign.
Robert Morris won the opening tipoff, and Velton Jones got the ball rolling for the Colonials when his fade away three pointer rattled in just 15 seconds into the first half. With that bucket, RMU gained the momentum needed to hand LIU its first NEC loss of the year.
“Velton hit that big three to start the game, but if he would have missed that one, who knows what it would have led to,” Long Island coach Tom Ferry said with a laugh.
Robert Morris went on an 11-3 run to begin the first half but the Blackbirds pecked their way back into the game and came within two tallies fifteen minutes in. But the Colonials then scored eight of the final ten points in the first half en route to a 34-26 advantage at the break.
“It was a big game for us. If we wouldn’t have come out with energy and intensity, we would have lost this game and would have dropped further back in the standings,” declared Velton Jones, a 6-0 guard.
RMU opened things up in the second half and netted 41 of its 75 points in the final frame. Velton Jones would then hit another three seven minutes in, that put the Colonials ahead by 15 to seal its seventh NEC victory of the season.
“It was a great win for our guys. I’m very proud of the way they defended and executed in the second half,” RMU head coach Andy Toole commented. “We did a good job at controlling the tempo and playing the game at our speed as opposed to their speed.”
According to Ferry, the Colonials are one step closer to making it back to the Northeast Conference championship game for a fourth consecutive time. “Robert Morris, ourselves, and several other teams in this league have the ability to win the conference championship. They know how to win, very much like our program,” continued the Blackbirds’ tenth year skipper. “They showed tonight that they can play at a championship level.”
After knocking off the number one ranked team in the conference and snapping LIU’s nine game winning streak, Velton Jones is confident that the Colonials can continue to be successful throughout the remainder of the season. “This could turn our season around. If we can just keep following our game plan and play with intensity, we will be okay from here on out.”
Despite being in the midst of a four game winning streak, coach Toole is concerned that his team won’t play with the same energy in the St. Francis contest as they did against the Blackbirds. “As much intensity, urgency and focus that we had tonight, we need to have the same on Saturday and the rest of the way out,” explained the second year head coach. “It will be interesting to see how they bounce back and see how we prepare and see how locked in they are.”
Robert Morris returns to the court on Saturday to take on the St. Francis (NY) Terriers and then takes to the road for a three game swing against Wagner, Mount St. Mary’s, and St. Francis (PA).