Streaking Colonials turn tide

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Robert Morris coach Andy Toole, after his team lost by 29 points to Lehigh on Nov. 12, unexpectedly said that he "finally got my team back," a statement that caused its share of raised eyebrows.

But he might have been right.

Guard Velton Jones scored 15 points and had six assists, leading the Colonials to a 71-62 victory against Cleveland State (4-2) Tuesday night at the Sewall Center in the NIT Tip-off, their third win in the past four games.

"It was a really big challenge for us to face coming off a win [Monday] night gearing up again and facing the physicality and the defense pressure," Toole said. "Like all of our wins have to be, it was another great team win."

Playing against a Cleveland State team whose only loss was to No. 4 Michigan, the Colonials put together perhaps their most complete effort of the season, shooting 48.9 percent from the field and outrebounding the Vikings, 30-24. The Colonials (3-3) also forced 19 turnovers, scoring 20 points off those miscues.

Utilizing a tough, opportunistic defense that got its offense out quickly in transition, Robert Morris led by as many as 10 points early on, but Cleveland State closed out the first half on a 13-7 run to get within four points at halftime.

From there, the Vikings continued to keep it close, even grabbing a 41-40 lead with a little more than 12 minutes remaining.

Immediately after a timeout, though, the Colonials quickly retook the lead and did not trail for the rest of the game, finishing off the second half on a 31-21 run.

"Coach Toole told us, 'They get runs, now it's time for us to get our run,' " said forward Mike McFadden, who scored 15 points and pulled down four rebounds.

At least part of that streak could be attributed to Jones, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the final 11 minutes.

"We've just got to help our team win," Jones said. "That's my job -- when it's down the stretch, help us get a victory and that's what I did."

Forward Lucky Jones added 13 points and eight rebounds for Robert Morris, which reached the .500 plateau for the first time since the season began.

After playing two games in the past 30 hours and three games in the past four days, the Colonials will have six days off before playing Nov. 26 at Savannah State, something that will give Toole and his staff time to hammer home the practices and philosophies that have allowed Robert Morris to come back from early adversity.

"We needed to be humbled a little bit before we realized this was a fun way to play," Toole said of his team's recent performances. "If this gives us the best opportunity to win games, this is how we'll do it."

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Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer.


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