Yet again, it was a numerical mismatch for Robert Morris, something that will be the case for the indefinite future.
Just like they did Thursday in a rout of Sacred Heart, the Colonials dressed only eight players against Wagner Saturday in the wake of suspensions and other roster defections.
And at certain points, it showed. There was a moment when 6-foot point guard Anthony Myers-Pate had to defend 6-7 forward Mario Moody and later had to post up on offense against 6-11 center Naofall Folahan. Against one of the biggest, deepest teams in the Northeast Conference, there were extended stretches when Robert Morris' second-tallest player on the court was 6-3 guard Charles Oliver.
But despite all that -- the lack of size, the lack of depth and playing against a markedly better opponent than the one two days before -- the Colonials again found a way to win.
Karvel Anderson scored a game-high 21 points, leading a group of four teammates who scored in double figures, as Robert Morris (11-10, 6-0) held on to defeat Wagner, 74-70, at Sewall Center.
After the game, coach Andy Toole spoke at length about gods, the kind that exert control over a basketball game by rewarding those who play the right way. With his team short-handed again, it got some help when it needed it.
"I'm not the most religious person, but I believe in the basketball gods and they might have been with us on that occasion because of the effort and the respect our guys gave over a 40-minute period," Toole said. "Everybody was on the floor, everybody was making plays, everybody was together, everybody was cheering for each other and sometimes when you do those things, the ball bounces your way."
In particular, Toole was referencing the game's final point. Colonials forward Aaron Tate -- a 35.7 percent free-throw shooter -- had a free throw bounce off the rim and nearly off the top of the backboard before going in to give his team a four-point lead with five seconds remaining.
Robert Morris trailed by five with 11 minutes left, but went on a 12-2 run to take a 61-55 lead. The Seahawks (9-10, 3-3) remained close for the rest of the game, trailing by only one point in the final minute. But freshman point guard Kavon Stewart made all four of his free-throw attempts in the final 30 seconds to help keep the Colonials' cushion intact before Tate put the game away.
Though Robert Morris was without six players, some watched from the stands, still providing support.
To their active teammates, their presence was felt.
"Those are still our brothers," Anderson said. "Whatever happened, happened. It takes nothing away from what we've been through the whole year and the preseason. They're still family no matter what."
Robert Morris' 6-0 start in NEC play is the best in program history and the victory also marks the first time the Colonials have been above .500 since Nov. 22. Myers-Pate added 12 points while Stewart and Lucky Jones had 10 apiece.
The players know that the past two games could be indicative of what faces them for the rest of the season. But if those wins were any barometer for what's to come, they're fine with the numbers they have.
"Coming into this game, we continued to tell ourselves that we have a lot of fight in us," Jones said. "Even though people keep doubting us, we're still going to get the job done."