Colonials look to rebound back into NEC title game

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Colonials look to rebound back into NEC title game

RMU Sentry Media

RMU Sentry Media

RMU Sentry Media

The RMU men's basketball program will look to advance to the NEC championship game for a fifth straight time during the 2012-13 campaign.

Nick Buzzelli, Assistant Sports Editor

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Victories are typically hard to come by in the world of college basketball, especially for programs at the mid-major, but over the course of the past five seasons, the wins have kept coming for the Robert Morris University men’s basketball team.

The Colonials, who own a .676 winning percentage during that time, are currently tied with Kent State for the ninth most wins at the mid-major level since 2007.

“I think it says a lot about the work ethic that our guys have, their competitiveness, and their ability to help our program be successful,” explained Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole. “It’s a great compliment to our players who were here when we first got here and really bought into the style that Coach Rice brought to Robert Morris.”

Despite graduating Lawrence Bridges, the Colonials return four starters from last season’s squad that posted a 27-11 record and tied the program mark for victories in a season.

Senior center Lijah Thompson believes that RMU is qualified to return to the Northeast Conference title contest for the fifth straight year.

“I definitely think that we have a team capable of making it to the championship game again, let alone win the championship,” said Thompson.  “With the transfers and one freshman coming in, we have a good team.”

The Colonials, who open the 2012-13 campaign against Rider on Nov. 9, will participate in the NIT Season Tipoff by facing Lehigh at the Petersen Events Center three days later. Rounding out RMU’s non-conference schedule are road contests against Xavier, Arkansas, and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Toole said that facing tough non-conference opponents will help Robert Morris once NEC play begins.

“The idea is to challenge ourselves the best we can out of conference, so that when we step into those 18 games that we know matter so much, we’re fully prepared for them,” he said. “It’s something that our guys enjoy because it puts them in different situations that allow them to really test themselves.”

Despite only signing one freshman to the roster, RMU added three transfer players, including forward and Pittsburgh native Vaughn Morgan, Jervon Pressley, and guard Karvel Anderson. Pressley, a 6-foot-7-inch sophomore from Towson, will be ineligible to play this season due to NCAA transfer rules.

“I think they’ve done a really good job at trying to figure out what they need to be successful here at Robert Morris,” said the third year skipper. “It’s going to be an interesting situation for [Hawkins] being the only freshman and having 12 other guys who have played some type of college basketball before. It’s going to be an adjustment, but he’s done a good job with approaching things the right way.”

Despite the fact that the Colonials have been winless in NEC championship games since 2009, Thompson would like to see the program repeat the success that it had during his freshman year.

“For my last season I really want to repeat my freshman year, winning the NEC conference title and heading back into the tournament,” added the native of Philadelphia. “I had a taste of it my first year, and we’ve been denied it my past two years, so I really want to get back to it.”

 

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