Despite shortened bench, Colonials manage to sneak past Sacred Heart

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Despite shortened bench, Colonials manage to sneak past Sacred Heart

Nick Buzzelli, Sports Editor

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Although the Robert Morris men’s basketball team was without its two leading scorers in Thursday night’s contest against the Sacred Heart Pioneers, the Colonials still managed to narrowly escape with a 66-62 victory.

Being without senior captain Velton Jones and guard Karvel Anderson, who were scratched due to injury, the Colonials were limited to a seven man rotation, but in head coach Andy Toole’s eyes, his club responded the way a winning program should.

“When you talk about teams that are successful, whenever they are hit with some type of adversity, they always find a way to perceiver and get through the game,” said Toole. “Some guys played more minutes than they’re used to, but a lot of guys stepped up and contributed in a lot of important ways.”

The Colonials had four players who registered double digit scoring, including Lucky Jones and Mike McFadden who each netted 15 tallies, while Russell Johnson and Coron Williams chipped in 10 apiece for an RMU squad that notched its 11th overall victory and third in Northeast Conference play. Shane Gibson led the Pioneers with 27 points, including a 4-for-9 performance from beyond the arc.

Robert Morris, who won the opening tipoff, took advantage of the game’s first possession, when Johnson knocked down a three pointer eight seconds in, but SHU went on a 12-4 run to take a five point advantage at the 16:48 mark of the first half.

Sophomore guard David Appolon, who netted six points in 20 minutes of play, intercepted  a Sacred Heart half court heave and drove the length of the floor for a layup to cut the deficit to one.

RMU would then take a two point edge courtesy of Johnson’s second trey of the contest and went into the locker room leading, 29-26.

In the final 20 minutes of play, the Colonials used a 9-0 run to distance themselves from Sacred Heart and led by as many as 12 at one point. The Pioneers however, fought their way back and would come within two thanks to Shane Gibson’s contested three pointer that rattled in with 15 seconds remaining, but a pair of free throws from Jones and Williams iced the contest for RMU.

Despite being without two of their most prominent players, Williams said that other players escalated their game, which resulted in the victory.

“Russell did a great job of making sure guys knew their matchup, and making sure that we’re all in the huddle,” said the redshirt junior. “Russ has stepped up and done a fantastic job and although Ant isn’t as vocal as Velton, he steps up and helped us with the leadership rule.”

As a result of having a short bench, Toole was forced to shift players around, but because of the squad’s flexibility, Johnson said the Colonials were prepared for situations like this.

“No matter how many players we have or how many players are down, the play never changes,” he said. “We have to do what we have to do and a lot of things in practice prepare us for situations like this. We’re a very versatile team.”

Because of the program’s recent slew of injuries, freshman forward Stephen Hawkins had a significant amount of playing time, which Toole believes will help him develop in the long run.

“With some of our departures, we really don’t have much options down low and he [Hawkins] has to go in there and perform, and in the last three games, he’s been really effective,” added the third year skipper. “Tonight he made some really good plays defensively, and as he continues to get more comfortable, he’s going to continue to make some more of those plays and finish more of those buckets around the basket.”

The Colonials return home Saturday night against conference foe Quinnipiac before hitting the road to take on Saint Francis (Pa) on January 24.

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