Robert Morris knocks-off Wheeling Jesuit in preseason play

The Robert Morris men’s basketball team began the 2011-2012 campaign against Wheeling Jesuit University in an exhibition match and the Cardinals nearly scored the preseason upset against a Division I opponent.

Although the Colonials won by seven points, head coach Andrew Toole was disappointed in his team’s performance against the Cardinals. “Wheeling Jesuit is a good team. They averaged 85 points per game last year and for us it’s a hard match-up but our young kids played like freshmen,” Toole explained. “Some of the things we talk about in practice everyday they didn’t do.”

Russell Johnson and Coron Williams led the Colonials with 23 and 22 points respectively. Johnson hit 6-8 from the field including 11-15 at the foul line while Williams shot 60% from beyond the arc.

Williams believes that he needs to step up this season and be a leader for the younger players on the squad.

“My role has increased this year and I have taken that to heart. I need to step it up,” the 6’2” sophomore guard said. “My confidence has grown and I’ve gotten more comfortable shooting this year.”

The Colonials got on the board early but the Cardinals, a NCAA Division II program, matched RMU shot for shot. Despite WJU’s late rally in the first half, RMU built a nine-point lead going into the locker room as Johnson knocked down a short jump shot at the buzzer.

Robert Morris would eventually take a 14-point lead early in the second frame, but the Cardinals staged a comeback late in the contest. After Recardo Gaddy hit a three pointer that knotted the score at 64 with 2:40 left, Johnson took the game into his own hands.

The 6’6” forward scored eight of his 23 tallies in the final two minutes, including six straight free throws to seal the victory for Robert Morris.

Junior guard Velton Jones wasn’t too concerned when the Cardinals evened the score late in the game. “We weren’t worried when they tied it. We still knew we were going to win the game,“ stated the native of Philadelphia. “Once we started to get in our groove and started doing the right things we knew we could win.”

According to Toole, the Colonials would not have been able to triumph in its exhibition match without the outstanding performances of Johnson and Williams. “Russell was terrific. He was in a good frame of mind and was really active around the rim,” said the second year head coach. “Without him and Coron Williams and their offensive output, we don’t win the game.”

Four of the program’s five freshmen saw playing time in the preseason contest with the exception of David Appolon, who was out with a dislocated shoulder. Brandon Herman contributed two baskets while Lucky Jones added two baskets, a block, an assist and three steals.

“We’ve always played nine or ten guys. We have six returners plus Mike McFadden when he’s eligible so now two or three of the freshmen early in the season will have to play. They have to now figure out what it takes to be successful in Division I,” Toole added. “They’ve improved in the fifteen practices we’ve had so hopefully now they can improve quickly in the game setting as well.”

The Colonials begin the regular season against Rider University at the Sewell Center on November 11 before traveling to Jersey City to battle Saint Peter’s.