When he saw Charles Oliver sweating and getting shots in well before a scheduled shoot-around Saturday, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole had a good feeling about the kind of day his junior guard might have.
Assistant coach Michael Byrnes had the same idea, even going up to Oliver before the tipoff to tell him so.
In a game in which their top two scorers struggled offensively, the Colonials needed to fill that huge void. And Oliver did just that.
A junior-college transfer in his first season with the Colonials, Oliver scored a season-high 19 points while making seven of his eight shots and aided a strong defensive effort as Robert Morris beat Mount St. Mary’s, 69-61, at the Sewall Center.
With the team’s two leading scorers — Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones — combining to score 16 points and missing 15 of their 20 shots, Oliver’s performance was crucial.
“[Byrnes] thought I was going to have a big game because they were going to deny Lucky and Karvel,” Oliver said.
“They basically weren’t really going to respect me, so I had to make them pay for that. That’s what I tried to do.”
Important as those contributions were, Robert Morris’ defense was equally influential. The Colonials (16-11, 11-1 NEC) held the league’s highest-scoring team to more than 15 points below its season average.
The Mountaineers (10-14, 6-5) had been getting 43.4 percent of their points from 3-point range.
But the Colonials defensive game plan was as simple as it was effective. They limited the number of good looks the Mountaineers got from beyond the arc.
The result: Mount St. Mary’s missed 20 of its 27 3-point attempts and had its second-lowest point total this season.
“They’re not really an inside kind of team,” Jones said. “They do have drivers, but their whole emphasis is making 3s.
“And, if you take away 3s, they score fewer points.
“That’s what we did.”
After allowing 11 points in the first four minutes, the Colonials grabbed the lead on an Oliver 3-pointer with 11:57 left in the first half. From then on, they never trailed.
After trailing by 11 points with four minutes left, the Mountaineers cut the deficit to four in two minutes.
Consecutive baskets by Jones and guard David Appolon pushed the advantage back to eight, and Robert Morris avoided a late scare.
With the victory, the Colonials have won 11 of their past 12 games. The success has been predicated on perhaps the most dynamic offensive tandem in the NEC.
This time, things played out differently, and, while Toole might not have been able to predict how the final box score would read, he was more than happy with the final result, especially with four games left in the regular season.
“You never know who’s going to need to step up,” he said.
“If you would have said ‘You’re going to win the game by eight and your three double-digit scorers would be [Stephan] Hawk[ins], Ant[hony] Myers[-Pate] and Chuck [Oliver],’ I’m not sure you guys would have believed that.
“But we have confidence in our guys that, if we execute and play together, we have a lot of guys that can make shots.”
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG. First Published February 15, 2014 6:12 PM