Colonials outlast Dukes 64-60 in thrilling fashion

Nick Buzzelli, Staff Writer

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  On Tuesday, December 6, the Robert Morris men’s basketball team defeated cross-town rival Duquesne at the A.J. Palumbo Center in a non-conference contest.

  With the victory, RMU improves to 7-2, the program’s best start through nine games in its 36 year existence, while the Dukes dropped to 5-4 overall.

  Lijah Thompson led the Colonials in scoring with 17 points, while Russell Johnson added 15 tallies and  nine rebounds in 30 minutes of playing time.

  Eric Evans netted 16 points for the Dukes and B.J. Monteiro dropped 13 against a Colonials defense that, this year, has held its opponents to under 27 points in the first half.

  One thing that head coach Andy Toole stressed to his team after Saturday night’s 18 point win against Monmouth was the importance of snagging defensive rebounds and fighting for loose balls.

  Prior to the December 6 contest, the Colonials went 53 straight minutes without having a center grab a defensive rebound and according to the second year head coach, that has to change if RMU wants to win big games. “At some point in time our centers are going to have to actually grab a rebound if we’re going to try to be a good team.”

  Robert Morris responded against the Dukes by grabbing a total of 35 boards, including 12 offensive rebounds. Despite the fact that centers Keith Armstrong and Thompson only combined for three defensive rebounds, they are making strides to battle for possession of the glass.

  The Dukes began the game on a 6-2 run five minutes into the contest but Thompson’s dunk at the twelve minute mark of the first half put the Colonials up by two. RMU would continue to add to its lead, until Eric Evan’s three-pointer from the wing 15 minutes into the half gave the Dukes a one point lead.

  Duquesne, a member of the Atlantic-10 Conference, did look back after taking the lead and eventually led by four points at halftime.

  The Colonials were trailing the majority of the second half, and DU eventually built a six point lead, until Johnson, a red-shirt junior forward, drained a three that put the Robert Morris ahead 57-56 with 3:14 remaining in the game.

  The Dukes took the lead once again on an Andre Marhold layup, but Thompson put the Colonials ahead for good with his reverse lay-up with less than 30 seconds on the clock. Sean Johnson’s coast-to-coast lay-up cut DU’s deficit to one point, but Velton Jones, who injured his knee against Monmouth, iced the game for the Colonials with two free-throws with ten seconds remaining that sealed the victory for RMU.

  Robert Morris closed the game on a 13-4 run to claim its third consecutive victory of the 2011-2012 campaign.

  “No one thought we could win this game except for us,” explained Jones, a 6-0 redshirt junior guard. “We think we’re a pretty good team. I think we came out with a lot of intensity because no one thought we could win this game.”

  In the city series, Robert Morris improves to 7-15 all time against the Dukes, while DU dropped its two previous matches against RMU 69-63 and 64-60 respectively. This is the first time since 1983-1984 that RMU has won two straight matches against its cross-town rival.

  The Colonials return to action and continue its non-conference schedule on December 17 when the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns come to town and then three days later, RMU hosts Hampton.

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