Hot Colonials try to benefit from scare

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If a college basketball season is a running narrative, Robert Morris' campaign was a few sentences from getting fundamentally altered Saturday.

The overtime victory against Wagner was the ninth win in the past 10 games for the Colonials going into tonight's game at Quinnipiac, but it nearly turned into their worst loss after a 14-point lead vanished over the final seven minutes.

Losses are nearly inevitable, but one against Wagner, given the circumstances of the game, would have been, as coach Andy Toole said afterward, "devastating.".

"I think it's something we can build off," Toole said.

"If you lose that game, there's a lot more second-guessing, there's a lot more questions about individuals making certain plays.

"I think from a whole team morale standpoint, it would have been a really tough one to bounce back from."

Fortunately for Robert Morris, the Colonials held on for one of their most important wins this season.

While a loss would have dropped the Colonials into a tie with the Seahawks for second in the Northeast Conference standings, the victory gave them a two-game cushion over one of the preseason favorites.

Add the fact that the teams play once in the regular season, and the win becomes a potential tiebreaker in the final standings.

The victory also was the most recent in what has been the Colonials' best stretch this season.

Over the past 31/2 weeks, the Colonials have played five of their 10 best games in terms of points per possession.

A large part of that has come from greater scoring depth, primarily from forwards Lucky Jones and Russell Johnson.

Velton Jones and backcourt mate Karvel Anderson largely carried the scoring load the first half of the season.

But Lucky Jones and Johnson have been two of the team's three leading scorers over the past 10 games, averaging 15.1 and 12.3 points per game.

Lucky Jones was suspended for Robert Morris' Jan. 10 victory at Fairleigh Dickinson, the first win of the run, but, since his return, the Colonials have not so coincidentally continued to win.

"At the end of the day, it taught me a valuable lesson. You never can take a day off, you never can think it's your way because if it's your way, then it's the highway," Jones said.

"If it's not the team's way, then it's not good for the program. I just had to get it back in my mind that I'm here for the team and nobody else."

Having survived such a scare against Wagner and avoided the ramifications such a loss might have had, perhaps some lessons were taught and learned.

"I hope that at this point in the season, you can look at a game maturely and say, 'OK, we're fortunate to have won it,' but realize there are a lot of things that we could have done better," Toole said.

"I know that's how we're looking at it as a coaching staff. I hope our guys understand that."

And, if they figure that out without further reinforcement from him, so much the better.

rmusports

Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer.


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