A bench that was full from end to end only seven days ago was noticeably sparse, with six empty seats reflecting recent -- and rapid -- changes to Robert Morris' roster.
Already gone were Mike McFadden and Desjuan Newton, both of whom are in the process of deciding whether to remain on the team. Also absent were freshmen Jeremiah Worthem, Britton Lee and the Colonials' two walk-ons, all of whom were suspended because of a violation of university policy.
The eight players who did dress Thursday night against Sacred Heart did not hear about the suspensions until warmups. But in that moment, they were presented with opportunity in the face of adversity.
"This is going to be a great test of what kind of team we are," coach Andy Toole told his team. "Everybody believes they can play -- now it's your opportunity to go out there and show it."
And show it they did.
As short-handed as they've been in recent memory, six Colonials made up for the difference by scoring in double figures, led by Lucky Jones' 18 points, as they put forth one of their best offensive performances of the season in a 91-65 victory at Sewall Center.
"We couldn't worry about what we couldn't control," guard Anthony Myers-Pate said. "We just had to stick together as a family and step up like men and get the job done."
Though the losses of the two walk-ons and the seldom-used Lee would have had little impact even in a close game, the suspension of Worthem, the Northeast Conference rookie of the week, could hamper the Colonials (10-10, 5-0 NEC) for as long as he is out.
No timetable was given on a possible return and no further comment was provided as to when the violations occurred.
"We're trying to sort the rest out from here," Toole said.
All eight players who suited up scored as the team made 53.6 percent of its field-goal attempts, its third-best showing of the season.
Jones turned in maybe his most complete performance, tying a season high with 11 rebounds to go along with his scoring output. It was his second consecutive double-double, coming five days after he had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a win against Mount St. Mary's.
"I think Lucky's at his best when he's active and making simple plays offensively," Toole said. "When he tries to score or when he tries to make a spectacular play is when he gets himself in trouble.
"When he takes shots as they come to him and when he's active on the glass, it's usually when he has really good games. Obviously, the last two [games], he's done that."
Karvel Anderson added 15 points, Charles Oliver scored 13 and Stephan Hawkins tied a career high with 12.
The separation in the game began early, as the Colonials rushed out to a 16-5 lead against the Pioneers (4-16, 1-4) less than seven minutes in. That advantage grew to 15 points by halftime and would not get lower than 12 points for the remainder of the game.
With the win, Robert Morris got back to the .500 mark for the first time since late November while matching its best start in NEC play.
Though the questions hovering over the team and its roster still remain, and with a tough game against Wagner looming Saturday, the Colonials could do a lot worse than they did Thursday.
"We just came out and handled our business," Jones said. "That's what we had to deal with and we just got the job done."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG. First Published January 23, 2014 9:06 PM