PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The first 33 minutes, 51 seconds wasn't perfect basketball for Robert Morris, but with a flustering defense and clutch shooting, it was good enough to hold a lead Monday night against Providence in a National Invitation Tournament second-second round game. The next two minutes weren't even that bad.
But the final 3:44 was nothing short of a disaster.
The Colonials led most of the first half and things looked fine when they trailed by one with 3:58 left. But then Robert Morris fell apart, going 1 for 8 from the field the rest of the way, and Providence closed with a 12-4 run that ended Robert Morris's season with a 77-68 loss at Dunkin' Donuts Center.
"Unfortunately we weren't able to make enough winning plays down the stretch," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. "They were able to get to the foul line and finish and that was the difference in the game."
The ending provided more of a shock to Robert Morris than the Providence fans had as the Colonials played tough for most of the game. Robert Morris quieted the Dunkin' Donuts Center by playing fearless basketball, taking 3-pointer after 3-pointer and making just about every big one it needed.
But the final 3:44 was a perfect storm of how to have a season end. The red-hot 3-point shooting that made 13 of 25 from deep in the first half wasn't there late.
Mike McFadden's layup with 2:44 to play that made it 70-66 was the lone field goal Robert Morris had in the final four minutes. The Colonials didn't score any other points in the time except two free throws from Russell Johnson that kept the deficit in single digits.
As Robert Morris was struggling, Providence senior guard Vincent Council played his best. He scored five of the Friars' final 12 points and assisted on another basket in the 12-4 finish.
"You have to have those senior moments where you don't want to lose," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "Vince willed us to that win with his speed."
"I don't think we detailed enough to come into a building like this and beat a Big East [Conference] team," Toole said. "But I do think that we weren't as bad as losing the last 3:45 by whatever we lost it by."
It was hard to ignore the disparity in points from the free-throw line. The Friars took 36 free-throw attempts and made 31; its 13-for-14 first-half performance was two more made and one fewer attempt than Robert Morris had in the game.
"It's hard to beat a team when they make 20 more free throws than you do and they go to the line 21 more times than you do," Toole said. "We fouled. I'm not going to lie. We foul a lot."
The Colonials nearly made the fouls a moot point.
Robert Morris wasn't intimidated by Providence. Why would it be, especially after a win a week ago at home against Kentucky.
"We know we can play with any team on the court no matter how big the school is or how small it is," Robert Morris guard Velton Jones said. "We have a lot of guys who don't have fear in anything.
They showed as much in the first half. It went down as a tie at 34-34 at the end of the first have, but Robert Morris could have and should have been up. The Colonials defense didn't create a ton of turnovers, but it did prevent Providence from getting good looks.
Making 6 of 10 3-pointers also helped.
"It's a byproduct of guys that can make shots," Toole said. "And it's what the defense gives us."
"The scouting report was they hit about eight 3s a game," Council said. "We were just trying to limit that."
Karvel Anderson did the most damage, hitting 4 of 7 3-pointers en route to a team-best 18 points; Johnson scored 16, hitting three 3-pointers, and McFadden was also in double figures with 14.
Robert Morris led most of the first half and played the kind of basketball that pushed them to the Northeast Conference regular-season title and past Kentucky. "It shows a lot about us," Johnson said. "It shows you have to come ready to play when you see our name on the schedule. It shows we have a lot of toughness and no fear."
First Published March 26, 2013 4:00 AM