The Robert Morris University men’s basketball team snapped a two game losing streak Saturday night as the Colonials overcame the visiting Sacred Heart Pioneers 70-67 at the Charles L. Sewall Center.
Coron Williams scored 20 points for RMU and Velton Jones contributed 18 tallies and three rebounds off the bench as the Colonials improve to 13-6 overall and 4-2 in NEC play.
Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole decided not to put Velton Jones in the starting lineup for the first time this season. Toole said he chose not to start the redshirt junior because he wanted to give the Colonials a much needed defensive spark off the bench. “I tried to create some more defensive energy in the beginning of the game. I wanted to put a group together that I thought would have high defensive energy,” explained the second year coach. “I also wanted to remind certain guys that starting is a privilege not a right.”
Although he was not on the floor to begin a game for the first time in two years, the 6-0 guard respected his coach’s decision and will do whatever he can to help his squad walk away with a win.
“It was weird sitting on the bench because that’s the first time I haven’t started since my freshman year,” Jones, a native of Philadelphia, said. “Coach tried to switch it [the lineup] up a little bit since we came out flat in our last two games. I just tried to do whatever I could to help my team out.”
Robert Morris and SHU traded baskets throughout the first half but the Colonials eventually took advantage of a few Sacred Heart turnovers and built a seven point lead heading into the locker room.
RMU would open the final period of play on a 15-3 run and it looked as if the Colonials would be able to put SHU away after being ahead by 13 tallies eight minutes into the second half. But once again, the Robert Morris defense coasted and allowed the Pioneers to go on a 29-16 run that evened the score at 67 with 2:30 left in regulation.
Jones added “We kinds of got a little relaxed and they kept fighting. We didn’t do the little things to finish the game out, but that’s conference basketball for you.”
Williams, who shot 66% from beyond the arc against the Pioneers, was injured and did not play in the final four minutes of the contest. Jones believed that despite being without the native of Midlothian, Virginia for the end of the game, the Colonials stepped up big in his absence. “Once he went out I knew I would have to step up more offensively. It hurt being without him but other players picked it up.”
SHU had an opportunity to take the lead but senior Lawrence Bridges snagged the defensive rebound from Steve Glowiak’s missed three pointer and drained both free throw attempts with 51 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Colonials.
Although Coach Toole was thrilled to have scored the win, he wasn’t pleased with his team’s defensive efforts, particularly in the second half. “I’m obviously happy to have won the game and it’s great to bounce back after two tough games and get a win but there’s so much stuff we have to clean up that it’s scary,” RMU’s skipper said after his team’s three point victory against the Pioneers. “We have to really clean things up in the coming weeks in order to beat some of the good teams.”
Robert Morris travels to New Jersey to face Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth during an NEC road trip and returns to the Sewall Center for a two game home stand against Long Island and the St. Francis Terriers on January 26 and 28.