Robert Morris University's Russel Johnson and Kentucky's Archie Goodwon scramble for a loose ball during the first round of the NIT.
By Craig Meyer Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Leading into his team's game against Kentucky, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole compared the Colonials' position to that of Rocky Balboa in the movie "Rocky" -- the underdog given the rare chance to take down one of the most recognizable figures of the sports.
But unlike Balboa, who narrowly lost his fight for the world heavyweight championship, Robert Morris was able to defy perceptions and collect a benchmark win.
Forward Lucky Jones scored 15 points, forward Russell Johnson added 14 and forward Mike McFadden made two free throws with under 10 seconds remaining to give the Colonials (24-10) an upset 59-57 win over the Wildcats (21-12) in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament Tuesday night at the Sewall Center.
Throughout the week, Toole stressed that though his team has never been in a position as unique as this one, they have played some of the game's best. It was a simple message -- his players would not be intimidated or star struck by the aura of the program they were facing.
Early on, they stayed true to their coach's belief, playing with a sense of poise, aggressiveness and confidence that helped them rush out to a 14-2 lead after holding the Wildcats scoreless for nearly the game's first five minutes.
Displaying their advantage in speed and overall athleticism, Kentucky slowly fought back and even briefly took the lead before going into halftime down 28-27.
Robert Morris began to pull away early in the second half, extending its lead to as many as 10 points. Any time it seemed like the Wildcats were on the verge of a run, the Colonials would find an answer until the game's final minutes.
It was then that Kentucky put up a final fight, riding a wave of momentum to tie the game with just over three minutes remaining.
With the game tied at 57 points apiece with just over eight seconds left, forward McFadden made two free throws to give the Colonials the lead. Kentucky got up a shot on the other end before time expired, but the shot did not go in to give Robert Morris the upset as its students quickly stormed the court.
Guard Archie Goodwin led Kentucky with a game-high 18 points.
The Colonials now advance to the next round of the NIT, where they will play the winner of Wednesday's game between Charlotte and Providence.