Robert Morris beats St. Francis, 75-57, gains NEC semifinals

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With less than three minutes to play in Robert Morris' Northeast Conference tournament quarterfinal against St. Francis of Brooklyn Wednesday night at Sewall Center, Russell Johnson was fouled near the Terriers' bench.

Rather than trade verbal barbs with the Terriers' bench, Johnson simply pointed up to the scoreboard, which displayed a 21-point Colonials lead.

Those were all the words Robert Morris needed in its 75-57 beat-down of St. Francis.

Next game

• Game: Robert Morris vs. Mount St. Mary's in NEC semifinals, Sewall Center.

• When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

• At stake: A spot in the NEC championship.

The Colonials took down St. Francis from long range, making 11 of 31 3-pointers. They started both halves with 3s on the first possession and set the tone for a hot-shooting game.

"Our starting unit got us going with energy on both ends of the floor, and we kept that going for 40 minutes," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said.

Karvel Anderson led all scorers with 20 points, and was 4 for 8 from beyond the arc. Johnson added 19 points, including 12 in the first half.

Johnson jump-started the contest, and the home crowd, just 22 seconds into the game when he converted a 3-pointer from the corner. Robert Morris added two 3s over the next two minutes and seemed poised for a blowout after building an early, 18-6 lead.

But St. Francis fought back and closed the gap to 20-16 with 12 minutes until halftime, but the Colonials went on a 7-2 spurt capped by a 3 from Anderson.

"I thought we recovered a little bit, stabilized a little bit, but we could never get over the top," St. Francis coach Glenn Braica said. "We couldn't get to the point where we put pressure on them."

Robert Morris held a 37-23 lead at halftime and slowly extended the margin in the second half.

If there was any doubt about the outcome, Anderson removed it with just over six minutes to play when he scored eight consecutive points to stretch the lead to 70-43.

"We kind of felt like they were dying down a little bit, but I felt like I had the opportunity to put the nail in the coffin and wanted to take advantage of it," he said.

Toole said the 3-point barrage wasn't necessarily a component of the pregame strategy, but that the Terriers' zone defense afforded Robert Morris some open looks.

In the teams' first meeting -- a 71-61 Terriers victory Jan. 31 at St. Francis -- Robert Morris shot 6 of 21 from 3-point range.

"[We had] just much better ball movement, much better player movement [Wednesday night ]," Toole said. "I think they did a good job in the first matchup of not allowing us to get penetration. We really had a choppy offense."

The other major difference from the first meeting was that the Colonials' emotional leader, point guard Velton Jones, was limited to just two minutes due to a shoulder injury.

Jones started and played 26 minutes Wednesday night. While he scored just three points, he had eight assists.

"It was just what the game was giving me," Velton Jones said. "My teammates were getting open shots, and I was just getting my teammates involved. It's not all about scoring. I was just doing what I could for the team, and that's dishing it out."

Jones also chipped in two of Robert Morris' 12 steals. Johnson led the way with five steals, and the Colonials had a 20-3 advantage in points off turnovers.

Jalen Cannon led the Terriers with 15 points. He scored on consecutive shots to open the game and appeared to be causing Robert Morris trouble down low, but the combination of Johnson and Lucky Jones limited him the rest of the way.

"It's extremely hard [to guard him,]" Lucky Jones said. "But, at the same time, you have to continue to fight.

"We both knew it was going to be a battle for 40 minutes. Every bucket that he got was very hard."

The Colonials will next face Mount St. Mary's, which beat Bryant, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the NEC semifinals. Because the Colonials are the top seed in the tournament, they will have the luxury of playing all their games at home, where they have lost twice this season.

The Robert Morris players admitted it was nice to be able to go back and relax after games rather than worry about a travel destination, and Toole said he didn't sense any pressure on his team as the regular-season league champion.

"I think our guys, whether we're the one seed, two seed, three seed, they have similar expectations," he said. "We've got to prepare the same way."

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Sam Werner: or on Twitter: @SWernerPG. First Published March 7, 2013 5:30 AM


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