Colonials finally hit stride in new season

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Opening the season with a pair of blowout losses certainly wasn't what Robert Morris coach Andy Toole had in mind when he was drawing up his blueprint to this season.

The game Tuesday night against Fordham at the Petersen Events Center? That's more like it.

Robert Morris got its first win, beating the Rams, 74-58. Toole said after the Colonials' 89-60 loss against Lehigh Monday that, despite the 29-point setback, he "found his team." The win Tuesday confirmed it.

"Sometimes things start to change when people get tired of the result," Toole said. "You lose two games, and all of a sudden guys are getting sick and tired of what's going on and, maybe, they're a little bit more tuned in to what we do."

Four Colonials hit double figures, and Velton Jones led the way with 18 points. Junior guard Karvel Anderson, in his first season with Robert Morris after transferring from junior college, chipped in a season-high 16 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Lucky Jones was one rebound away from a double-double, with 15 points and nine rebounds.

"Obviously, winning the game is one of the most important things, but the way that we played together, the way that we won the game, I think was key," Toole said. "With multiple guys making plays, multiple guys making shots, multiple guys contributing. That's the way we've always won over the last five years."

Toole said that he thought his team started to come together toward the end of the loss Monday to Lehigh. The scoreboard didn't reflect it because the shots weren't falling, but he thought the Colonials made some strides.

Against Fordham, those good shots finally started dropping. Robert Morris shot 44.4 percent in the first half, including six of 15 from 3-point range. Anderson had 10 points in 14 minutes off the bench in the opening half.

"I feel like we executed pretty good and we played hard [Monday], but just didn't hit any shots," Jones said. "Today, we wanted to come in do the same thing, but today we made shots and kept playing."

Anderson, especially, seemed to get in his rhythm in the first half. At one stage, he made back-to-back 3s and scored eight consecutive points for the Colonials. Especially with Russell Johnson still dealing with a high ankle sprain, Anderson's offense was a boost for Robert Morris.

"I'm feeling like I'm getting back to being myself," Anderson said. "I know that my teammates count on me a lot to make those types of shots. When I do that, I know that I'm doing what my team needs me to do."

Toole said several players, including Anderson, arrived early to the shootaround Tuesday morning to work on their shots and make sure the Colonials wouldn't fall to 0-3.

"That's a tribute to those guys wanting to be successful and wanting to make shots for their team," Toole said. "Because we work so hard defensively, we work so hard defensively to get good shots, and now we've got to step up and make them."

The Colonials held a 37-29 halftime lead, but Fordham ripped off a 10-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Bryan Smith, that tied it, 39-39.

Over the final 10 minutes, Robert Morris put the game to rest. The Colonials ripped off a 12-0 run to take a 59-44 lead capped by a tip-in from freshman Stephan Hawkins on a fastbreak. Hawkins finished with six points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes.

"We had a transition opportunity, missed it, he flies in out of nowhere and tips it in," Toole said. "That's a huge play for our team, and it's a huge play for him."

The Rams made a late run that closed the deficit to seven with just more than three minutes left, but got no closer. Guard Branden Frazier led Fordham with 21 points in 35 minutes.

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Sam Werner: and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published November 14, 2012 5:00 AM


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