Jones puts Colonials in NEC title game

Robert Morris 64, Quinnipiac 62

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HAMDEN, Conn. -- A year ago, while just a freshman, Velton Jones snapped a tie score with just over a minute to play to lift Robert Morris to a two-point win against Quinnipiac in the Northeast Conference championship game.

The field goal not only led the Colonials to their second consecutive berth in the NCAA tournament but also stuck in the back of his mind.

So on Sunday, when Jones had the ball with the score tied in an NEC semifinal, he didn't have to dig too deep in his memory bank to know what he was going to do.

"Before the play all I could think about was last year," Jones said. "I hit almost the same type of shot in the same position. Once I floated it in I saw that I put enough on it and it was going in.

"The play was to get me open, a simple ball screen. They weren't really doing too well on ball screens. I saw an open lane and I just floated it up and it went in."

Jones' short jumper with four seconds left lifted Robert Morris to a 64-62 victory against Quinnipiac at the TD Bank Sports Center.

The Colonials, who won their eighth game in a row, will play at Long Island University for the NEC championship at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The final will be televised by ESPN2. Long Island, the No. 1 seed, defeated Central Connecticut State, 69-65, in the other semifinal Sunday.

No. 3 seed Robert Morris (18-13) will be seeking its third consecutive NEC title. The Colonials have won eight consecutive NEC tournament games.

"It was an incredible college basketball game," Robert Morris coach Andrew Toole said. "Obviously you're glad you're on the victorious end but the emotion and heart in that game ... I'm glad to be a part of it.

"The credit goes to our team for continuing to play together, stay together and find shots offensively, get enough stops defensively and get enough rebounds in order to come out two points better."

The Bobcats had a chance to tie or win the game after Jones' shot, but guard James Johnson bobbled an inbounds pass and then slipped while getting off a desperation 3-point attempt that wasn't close.

Coron Williams, filling in for injured guard Karon Abraham, led the Colonials with 15 points. Russell Johnson and Lijah Thompson were both huge factors with each scoring 14 points.

"Nobody thought we were going to win coming into this game," said Jones, who had 13 points and eight assists. "They had us as a six-point underdog. I'm very excited."

No. 2 seed Quinnipiac (22-9) was led by Deontay Twyman with 14 points. James Johnson had 13 and Dave Johnson added nine.

Robert Morris trailed, 33-29, at the half but the Colonials opened the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 39-35 lead. The contest featured 22 lead changes and 12 ties.

The Colonials took a 61-57 lead with 1:53 to play on a layup by Thompson. But Quinnipiac got a 3-pointer from Twyman and then took a 62-61 lead on two free throws by Dave Johnson.

Russell Johnson tied the score, 62-62, hitting the first of two free throws. His second shot missed and the rebound was battled for and went off the hands of Quinnipiac's Ike Azotam giving the Colonials possession with 38 seconds to play.

That's when Jones worked his magic.

"We entrust Velton to make good decisions for us down the stretch," Toole said. "He has great toughness with the basketball and he's our leader.

"But everybody that played for us was terrific. It's a credit to those guys and I'm just glad we get to go and play one more game."


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