Colonials start off NEC season play with win over Knights

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Colonials start off NEC season play with win over Knights

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Logan Carney, Sports Manager

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MOON TOWNSHIP — The Robert Morris Colonials (6-8, 1-0 NEC) kicked off NEC play by defeating the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (5-8, 0-1 NEC) by the score of 69-62. It was the first game of conference play for the Colonials, and came after Robert Morris closed out their non-conference season by losing four of the last five games.

In the first half, the two teams struggled to pull away from one another as the largest lead by the second media timeout, the 11:54 mark, was a mere three points that both teams had at one point. At the second media timeout though, RMU led 16-15 and started to pull away from the Knights. They were able to get their largest lead of the half just two minutes later when they took a seven point lead with 9:29 left in the first.

“First off, I’m really proud of the way our guys competed tonight,” said Coach Toole. “I thought they did a really good job during the course of the game continuing to execute and stay together.”

The Colonials started to get into foul trouble around this point as they had four fouls in less than a one minute span from 8:44-7:53. They finished with seven in the first half.

To make matters worse, the Colonials also struggled with turnovers again as they turned the ball over 14 times in the first half. This led to 17 points off of turnovers for the Knights, more than half of their total points in the first half. Despite these struggles though, the Colonials rode a 63.6% shooting percentage and 11 points from Yannis Mendy on route to a 33-31 halftime lead.

“I think we had over double-digit turnovers in the first half and that’s what killed us,” said Matty McConnell. “That’s what killed us and that’s what kept it close… If we limited those turnovers I think we could have sustained that lead.”

“Obviously in the first half, turned the ball over to start the game,” said Coach Toole. “FDU had 11 of their first 15 points basically off our turnovers. Something we have to get under control for sure.”

The second half started out similar to the first, as the two teams failed to pull away from one-another. The first ten minutes of the second half saw six lead changes, one less than the entire total of the first half. Nonetheless, it was the Colonials that pulled away as they took a double-digit lead with 8:26 remaining in the second half. At this point, FDU was forced to call a timeout as the Colonials led 57-46.

“I was just trying to execute what the coaches told me,” said Mendy on his strong performance. “The past few weeks they have been on me to be more aggressive and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

The Knights didn’t relent though and were able to pull within two at 59-57 with less than three minutes remaining in the game. From there on though, it was all Robert Morris as the Colonials only gave up three points in those last three minutes and they came out with a 69-62 victory.

The Colonials start off conference season with a strong win against Fairleigh Dickinson. Matty McConnell and Charles Bain led the Colonials with 15 points each. RMU also saw scoring help from Mendy and Petteway, who finished with 13 each. The Colonials shot 55.8% in the game and out-rebounded the Knights 27-24.

“I think I found my shot,” said McConnell. “My coaches have done a really good job of keeping up with me in practice. Just making sure that I’m stepping into my shot, making sure I’m jumping real good. Like last game, I thought I shot very well and it carried over into this game. God was testing me in non-conference and that’s why I just stuck with it and kept shooting.”

Robert Morris was also able to cutdown on the foul trouble, as a whole, in this game after struggling to do so against Louisville and Hood. The team finished with 14 fouls, seven in both halves. The Colonials did have more turnovers than the Knights, 24-22, but they were able to trim down the turnovers in the second half as they had 14 in the first and 10 in the second.

This performance came without last year’s NEC Freshman of the Year Koby Thomas, who has not played in the last three games, the last two due to illness.

“He had not practiced from that illness on Saturday,” said Coach Andy Toole. “He had been in practice yesterday and just for a short time. We’re trying to figure out what’s going on with him. He said he still had some ailments today. I thought his body language and his energy on the bench was much better today which is a good time, so hopefully he’s starting to feel a little better. He’s going to see the doctor and hopefully we can get some stuff sorted out.”

The Colonials next game will be against Mount St. Mary’s (3-11, 0-1 NEC) who are coming off a loss to Saint Francis University (4-9, 1-0 NEC) by the score of 80-69. That game will be at the RMU Recreation and Fitness Center at the North Athletic Complex on Saturday, January 5th at 5:00 p.m.

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