HAMDEN, Conn. -- Robert Morris forward Dallas Green had two words pop into his mind as he walked slowly to the free-throw line Wednesday night: Deja vu.
For the second consecutive year, Green had the ball in his hands with the Northeast Conference title on the line. For the second consecutive year, the Colonials are champions.
Green blocked a shot and sank two free throws in the final 10 seconds as the Colonials beat Quinnipiac, 52-50, to win the NEC tournament championship and their seventh conference title.
The Colonials (23-11, 15-3) clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and became the first team since Rider in 1994 to defend its NEC title successfully.
"Most people have one chance to make it," Green said of the NCAA tournament, "and I made it twice."
Green made the deciding basket in the NEC title game last season when the Colonials beat Mount St. Mary's, 48-46.
Robert Morris freshman guard Karon Abraham scored 16 points to lead the Colonials and was the only Robert Morris player to finish in double figures. He was named NEC tournament MVP.
"Just making plays for my team -- that's what Coach wants me to do, that's what the players trust me to do," Abraham said. "I just went out there with confidence, and they fell."
Abraham scored 10 points in the second half as the Colonials focused on attacking the lane.
"We got the ball, swung the ball and tried to move their defense instead of trying to shove it down their throat," coach Mike Rice said.
The Colonials outrebounded Quinnipiac, 35-34, which Rice said was a point of emphasis before the game.
Both teams shot worse than 42 percent -- Robert Morris was 41.7 percent from the field and Quinnipiac (23-9, 15-3) was 34.8 percent.
But the Colonials' succeeded, Rice said, because they shook off their struggles.
"Persevering through some missed free throws, maybe some missed close ones here or there, to fight and to come out on top, it shows tremendous character about our team," he said.
The game was close wire to wire -- neither team led by more than six points. Quinnipiac had a chance to win the game after Abraham missed two free throws with 2.8 seconds remaining, but James Johnson's halfcourt prayer fell well short of the rim.
Nerves got the best of both teams early. With a national TV audience watching, the teams shot a combined 19 for 52 in the first half and turned over the ball a combined 16 times.
The Colonials struggled to score points in the lane as the Bobcats' defense closed in on Colonials' forward Rob Robinson, who was double-teamed every time he touched the ball in the post.
Robinson was 0 for 3 in the first half with no points and two turnovers.
But the Colonials got a boost from its perimeter shooting, going 4 for 8 from outside in the first half, even though Quinnipiac led, 25-23, at intermission.
Quinnipiac guard James Feldeine took control early in the second half, scoring 11 points in the first 10 minutes. But no other Bobcat scored in that time, allowing the Colonials to take a 39-38 lead when Gary Wallace hit a 3-pointer.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com or 412-263-1722. First Published March 11, 2010 5:00 AM