Robert Morris: Coming off 91-65 victory Thursday against Sacred Heart, the team's fifth in a row, matching its best start ever in NEC play. ... F Lucky Jones had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. He is averaging 17 points and 10.5 rebounds the past two games.
Wagner: Coming off 87-83 loss Thursday against Central Connecticut State, its second in its past three games. ... Has three players in G Latif Rivers (14.1), G Kenneth Ortiz (12.5) and G Marcus Burton (11.1) who average more than 10 points per game. ... Lost to Robert Morris, 83-79, in overtime last season.
Hidden stat: Despite dressing only eight players Thursday, Robert Morris tied its season high in offensive possessions with 77.
“Student-athletes at Robert Morris University are held to the highest standards and, unfortunately, these four individuals have violated university policy,” athletic director Craig Coleman said in a statement. “We trust that these young men have learned from their mistake and will bounce back as better individuals as a result of this action.”
No further details were provided about the nature of the transgressions. All four players participated in practice as recently as Tuesday, but within hours of the game Thursday, players were informed of the suspensions.
While the loss of all four has an impact from a numbers standpoint — the Colonels dressed eight players Thursday — only Worthem’s absence will particularly sting.
A starter as a freshman, the 6-foot-6 forward from Philadelphia averages 8.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He is the reigning Northeast Conference rookie of the week after scoring a career-high 21 points in a Jan. 18 victory at Mount St. Mary’s.
The suspensions follow the recent absences of forward Mike McFadden and guard Desjuan Newton, both of whom are deciding whether to remain with the team.
Without McFadden and now Worthem, Robert Morris loses its two primary frontcourt starters. The task of filling that void primarily will fall on center Stephan Hawkins, who has shown signs of improvement with increased minutes in recent weeks. The 6-foot-9 sophomore tied a career high with 12 points Thursday and understands the responsibility he and his teammates now face.
“I feel it a little bit more,” Hawkins said. “It hasn’t really dawned on me yet.”
Though he has not been officially added to the roster, D.J. Pearson, a former New Brighton High School standout and now tight end on the Robert Morris football team, worked out with one of the assistant coaches Friday.
Robert Morris’ lack of depth wasn’t challenged against Sacred Heart, but that will likely change today against Wagner. The Seahawks, who were the preseason NEC favorite, have seven players averaging at least 20 minutes per game. By comparison, the Colonials have five, two of whom are not currently with the team.
Today’s game could soon become a consistent reality for what is now suddenly an undermanned team.
“They’re probably the deepest and most talented team in our league,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said of Wagner. “They have a handful of players at every position that can really hurt you and there are going to be a lot of challenges we’re going to need to face.”
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