There was an energy to Sewall Center Thursday night, the kind that hadn't been seen since Robert Morris' win last season against Kentucky. And though it wasn't as palpable as it was that night, Anthony Myers-Pate could feel it.
With Velton Jones -- his longtime backcourt mate who graduated last year -- watching from the baseline near the team's bench, he could. After he buried a 3-pointer to extend his team's lead to six points in the final 10 minutes of a 79-76 victory against Bryant and proceeded to tap three fingers against the side of his head, he could.
And by the time the final buzzer sounded, the senior guard who had the flu for most of the week certainly could.
A productive and reliable presence for much of the season, Myers-Pate turned in one of the best performances of his career, scoring a career-high 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting in Robert Morris' win.
The veteran point guard was vomiting during the team's shootaround within an hour of tipoff, but when it came time to perform in a big moment for an undermanned team, he delivered.
"I guess it was just the demons leaving my body," he said with a laugh.
The victory gives the Colonials (12-10, 7-0 Northeast Conference) a season sweep of the Bulldogs (13-9, 5-2) and gives them a three-game lead for first place in the conference.
"That's a big brother figure to me," Myers-Pate said of playing in front of Jones. "I feel like I played well in front of him tonight, letting him know, 'We're still holding things down right now.' "
Karvel Anderson added 24 points and all eight players scored for the Colonials.
In front of a frenzied crowd, Robert Morris jumped out early, scoring 11 of the first 13 points to take a nine-point lead not even three minutes into the game. That advantage was stable throughout the first half, with the lead growing to as many as 12 points at one point.
That lead held consistent for much of the second half before Bryant made its move. Trailing by 12 in the final 10 minutes, the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 65-61 with 5:44 remaining after a 3-pointer from Corey Maynard.
That once-comfortable lead for the Colonials was whittled to one point with 45 seconds remaining after Maynard converted a three-point play. With his team still holding a one-point edge with 12 seconds left, Anderson made two free throws to push the lead to three before Maynard missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Five days after a four-point win against Wagner, Robert Morris again found a way to get a victory out of a closely contested game.
"Our guys have stepped up and made plays when we needed them to make them," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said.
"We've made key free throws in certain games, we've been able to execute well, Karvel's hit some big shots in some of the games.
"But I think all of our guys on the floor have really been able to lock in in some of these late-game situations and make the play that it takes."
Alex Francis scored 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds for Bryant.
Despite taking the court with just one player taller than 6 feet 6, the Colonials outrebounded the Bulldogs, 36-28. Down to only three players on the bench, Robert Morris managed to stay out of foul trouble, with no player finishing with more than three fouls.
In all, it was another complete performance by a team that appears to be hitting its stride at a crucial point in the season.
"Everybody that played on the court contributed and made big plays," Toole said.
"Lucky [Jones] didn't shoot it well, but to be able to get eight rebounds and have four assists, those things contribute to wins, as well.
"It was another total team effort by our guys to beat a very good team."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG