Robert Morris stayed a step ahead of Duquesne from start to finish in a fast, furious and physical contest Saturday afternoon at Palumbo Center.
The Colonials triumphed, 67-63, fending off a last-minute comeback to snap a five-game losing streak and grab their fourth consecutive victory against the Dukes.
This cross-town rivalry game was sloppier than the slippery, snowy Pittsburgh streets outside. The teams combined for 29 turnovers in a game played at breakneck pace.
“It just wasn’t a very sharp game,” Duquesne senior forward Ovie Soko said. Soko had 14 points and seven rebounds before fouling out for the second game in a row.
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole noted that there was “a lot of chippiness and physicality,” as the teams combined for 40 fouls, and three players fouled out. Toole said a number of the whistles were “tough” calls to stomach.
“I don’t know how to teach defense anymore if you can’t stand in front of your man,” Toole said, shrugging.
The Dukes (3-5) led only once. On the opening possession, sophomore guard Derrick Colter let loose a 3-point attempt — air ball. Junior forward Dominique McKoy picked up the rebound and fed it back to Colter, who made his second shot count.
The lead lasted less than two minutes before Robert Morris (4-7) caught fire. The Colonials led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but Duquesne (3-5) fought back to a two-point halftime deficit (31-29) after junior guard Tra’Vaughn White splashed in a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Aside from the bookend 3-pointers in the first half, Colter and White were 3 of 16 from the floor — they were 3 of 21 in the previous game, a 68-59 loss Wednesday to Penn State.
Shortly before the half, Soko and Robert Morris forward Jeremiah Worthem drew offsetting technicals for shoving beneath under the basket. The foul would prove costly for Soko.
“You’ve got to have better poise in a physical game like this,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “He’s got to get better at that.”
Duquesne tied the score, 39-39, on a 3-pointer from senior guard Jerry Jones near midway through the second half, but Robert Morris forward Lucky Jones answered with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, and the Colonials began to pull away.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Robert Morris guard Karvel Anderson in the final five minutes extended the lead to double digits. Anderson finished with 17 points.
“You can’t give a guy like that any kind of space,” Soko said.
But a 3-pointer by White and a layup by McKoy brought Duquesne back to within three in the final minute.
Anderson was fouled with 3.8 seconds remaining and missed the first shot, but sank the second attempt.
It was the Colonials’ first made free throw of the half — they missed their first five — but it put the game on ice.
Duquesne made 23 of 35 free throws, while Robert Morris was just 6 for 12.
Toole’s 2-3 zone gave the Dukes fits, but more noticeable was the Colonials’ transition defense that limited Duquesne’s up-tempo offense to just four fast-break points.
Ferry pinned the breakdown in transition not so much on Robert Morris’ defense but on the Duquesne ballhandlers’ decision-making.
“We were forcing it to the rim instead of swinging the basketball — push and swing, that’s a term we use,” Ferry said. “We didn’t do that. Guys were pressing. They forced it to the rim, took bad shots and missed them.”
McKoy led the Dukes with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Stephen J. NesStephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.bitt: email@example.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt. First Published December 14, 2013 4:07 PM