Robert Morris jumps into tie for Northeast Conference lead

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The style of play Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian learned as an assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth is a fast-paced one, highlighted by an unrelenting full-court pressure defense succinctly dubbed as "havoc."

It can be tough to prepare for such a scheme, especially with less than 48 hours to do so. But Robert Morris has proven numerous times during its recent win streak that such tasks are not as daunting as they might seem.

The Colonials largely held their own against the Mountaineers' press Saturday night at Sewall Center, setting the stage for a 76-68 victory that not only gave them their sixth consecutive win, but also put them in a tie for first in the Northeast Conference.

"It helps when you have guys who make basketball plays because that's what they do -- they make you play basketball," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. "You have to read and react, you have to be alert, you have to be energetic, urgent."

Eight Robert Morris players scored, led by guard Karvel Anderson's 22 points. Forward Russell Johnson scored 14 points in his fourth consecutive game with double-figure scoring. Guard Velton Jones added nine points and seven assists.

For much of the night, the Colonials (14-7, 6-2) were unfazed by the Mountaineers' uncompromising pressure. They turned the ball over 15 times, two more than their season average, against a team that entered the game ninth in the country in turnover margin.

Leading, 14-10, with 10:36 left in the first half, the Colonials soon gained a comfortable lead thanks to Anderson. Much the same way he did Thursday night at Saint Francis, Anderson went on a scoring spree, netting eight consecutive points to push his team's lead to 22-10 less than a minute later.

"I'm just kind of playing with what's available," Anderson said.

"With the press, I knew I was going to have to be more aggressive again offensively. I just was ready when my opportunity came and, fortunately, I got a lot of opportunities tonight. I'm always confident I can make the shot."

From that point, Mount St. Mary's drew no closer than six points until the final minute when it cut Robert Morris' lead to four points with a 13-1 run that ended with 24 seconds remaining.

The Colonials responded when Anderson and Johnson teamed to make four consecutive free throws, enabling Robert Morris to hold on for the victory.

Defensively, it was a step forward for Robert Morris.

The Colonials, who entered the game having allowed each of their previous two opponents to shoot better than 55 percent from the field, held the Mountaineers (7-12, 2-6) to 42.6 percent shooting, including 28.6 percent in the first half.

Jones recorded his 500th career assist in the first half, making him the second player in school history to accomplish the feat.

Even with all the accomplishments in the past three weeks, Toole put little stock in his team's current position.

"They don't give championships after eight games," Toole said.

"That doesn't really mean anything."

rmusports

cmeyer@post-gazette.com Twitter: @craig_a_meyer


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