Robert Morris Colonials widen NEC lead in rout

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If senior night is meant to represent finality, Robert Morris is not ready to embrace the concept.

With their 89-46 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson Saturday night at the Sewall Center, the Colonials have won six of their past seven games and 12 of their past 14 while soaring to the top of the Northeast Conference standings.

For a team that frequently speaks about its one-day-at-a-time mindset, the win against the last-place Knights was treated as just another game, even though it began with an unorthodox starting lineup that included little-used seniors Treadwell Lewis and Shane Sweigart.

The Colonials started slowly and led, 17-15, nearly 10 minutes into the game.

Then, Robert Morris finished the first half on a 27-8 run that led to a 44-25 halftime lead. Seven players scored in that burst.

"There was a certain point where we got a number of different stops in a row, and you could just see it in their faces that they were getting broken down," Lewis said.

"So, we just turned it up."

Fairleigh Dickinson would get no closer than 19 points the rest of the way. The final 43-point difference represented Robert Morris' largest margin of victory in more than two years.

Guard Velton Jones, who did not play in the team's previous two contests while he rested an injured shoulder, played 20 minutes and scored a game-high 20 points.

"It's not a situation where you're straddling the fence," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said of playing Jones.

"If you're in, you're in for doing all the things that are necessary for us being a good team and doing it the right way."

Forward Russell Johnson added to a balanced offense with 10 points and 11 rebounds, his second double-double this season.

Forward Mike McFadden matched a season high with 15 points.

For a team that has struggled with rebounding at times this season, the Colonials' matchup against Kinu Rochford, who entered the game with the 32nd-best offensive rebounding percentage in Division I, was expected to be a difficult one.

Yet, Robert Morris outrebounded Fairleigh Dickinson, 54-24, and the visibly frustrated Rochford left the game voluntarily late in the first half.

With the victory, the Colonials clinched no worse than a fourth-place finish in the NEC standings, meaning it will get at least one home game in the conference tournament.

Perhaps, the Colonials most important game of the regular season comes Thursday night when they visit Bryant, which trails Robert Morris by 11/2 games in the NEC. The Bulldogs won the Jan. 3 meeting, 84-77.

"It seems like a chance to get them back," Johnson said. "They caught us when we were out of whack and not doing what we were supposed to do. Now, with the way we're rolling, we've bought into everything. It's a good chance to see how this goes."

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Craig Meyer: Twitter: @craig_a_meyer.


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