Colonials ratchet up intensity, stun Dukes

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It was just one game on a 31-game regular-season schedule, and it was not a Northeast Conference game at that.

Still, Robert Morris' 64-60 win against Duquesne Tuesday night had an intensity rivaled by few regular-season contests.

"No one thought we could win this game except for us," Colonials guard Velton Jones said.

"I guess people look at it like we're just little old Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference. We think we're a pretty good team. I think we came out with a lot of intensity because no one thought we could win this game but us, really."

Combined with their 69-63 victory last season at the Sewall Center, this win marked the Colonials' first back-to-back victories against Duquesne since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

Robert Morris earned a 60-55 victory in 1983 and backed that up with a 65-59 win in '84.

Neither of those wins came on Duquesne's home floor.

In fact, the victory Tuesday was just the second for Robert Morris (7-2) at Palumbo Center. The other was an 85-81 victory in 1990.

"We have an expectation that we can go out there and compete and, if we do what we need to do, win games like this," Colonials coach Andy Toole said.

"We just have to do it on a consistent basis. We can't wait 27 years to beat Duquesne back-to-back."

This game will not have an impact on whether Robert Morris makes the NCAA tournament this season -- that will be decided in the NEC tournament in March -- but it is a building block in establishing the Colonials as a mid-major team to be reckoned with. At 7-2, they are off to their best start.

"We're making some huge strides," Jones said.

"Trying to get to that high mid-major level."

Like last season, the Colonials came back from a halftime deficit for the win. A year ago, Robert Morris trailed, 35-32. This year, the deficit was 32-28.

The Colonials had trouble holding onto the ball in the first half Tuesday as evidenced by 11 turnovers.

Lijah Thompson had his best game this season for the Colonials, putting up 17 points and grabbing five rebounds. He also scored one of the biggest baskets for the Colonials.

With Robert Morris leading, 59-58, with 30 seconds left, Jones drove and found Thompson underneath the basket. Thompson's up-and-under move resulted in a clutch basket.

"Coach Toole said just go out and make a play for the team," Jones said.

Two consecutive wins against the Dukes are nice in the three-way city rivalry, but the Colonials have lost 35 games in a row against Pitt, the most recent coming in an 81-71 defeat Nov. 27.

Since then, Robert Morris has won three games in a row, including two victories to open its Northeast Conference schedule last weekend.

They will return home Thursday night to take on Cleveland State, a team that beat then-No. 7 Vanderbilt earlier this season.


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459


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