Robert Morris guard Karvel Anderson leads the Colonials into tonight's second-round NIT matchup at Belmont.
By Craig Meyer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The win didn't carry the same sort of weight because there was no way that it could have.
On Tuesday, almost a year to the day it beat Kentucky in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, Robert Morris again was able to defeat one of the tournament's No. 1 seeds -- an 89-78 victory against St. John's at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, N.Y..
While defeating the Red Storm may not be on par with defeating college basketball's all-time winningest program, it was the sort of win that raised some eyebrows, with much of the discussion centering around a single question -- how does this small school from a small conference keep pulling off these kind of wins?
Matchup: Robert Morris (22-13) vs. Belmont (25-9), NIT second round, 9:30 p.m. today, Curb Event Center, Nashville, Tenn.
RMU: Coming off 89-78 victory Tuesday at St. John's. ... In the win, Robert Morris shot 50 percent from 3-point range. ... G Karvel Anderson had a career-high 38 points, while F Lucky Jones added 25.
Belmont: Coming off 80-65 victory Tuesday at Green Bay. ... G/F J.J. Mann, the Ohio Valley Conference player of the year, averages a team-high 18.3 points per game. ... Ranks 36th in Division I in offensive efficiency, averaging 112.7 points per 100 possessions.
Hidden stat: Belmont is shooting 57.6 percent on 2-pointers this season, the best mark of any Division I team.
"I think that's one of the things that we talk about in our program -- the game's the game," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. "It's not the game versus Northeast Conference opponents or mid-major opponents and the game versus high-major opponents.
"If you can play with the poise and comfort level against everybody, I think it's going to help you across the board, whether it's a really talented team or a team that's on a similar level to yourself. That's what we did on Tuesday."
As the Colonials prepare for their game tonight against Belmont in the second round of the NIT, they maintain that mindset.
A year ago, Robert Morris found itself in this same position when it lost to Providence, 77-68. Five players from this season's team were on that one, but one of those players, guard David Appolon, is a game-time decision tonight because of a foot injury. If he is unavailable the Colonials would be down to just seven players.
No longer faced with the expectations to make the NCAA tournament as the NEC's top seed, the team has embraced its new role.
"In the NEC tournament, we had a little pressure on us because we were expected to win, but now you're playing in a postseason tournament and you don't really have any expectations," guard Anthony Myers-Pate said. "You're the underdog. Toole just told us that we don't really have anything to lose, so we just need to go out and play carefree and have fun. When we do that, that's when we're at our best."
Even with their well-established role as an upstart, it will take a strong performance for the Colonials' season to continue.
Statistically, Belmont is one of the top offensive teams in Division I.
The Bruins, the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champions, have scored at least 80 points in five of their past seven games and rank second in Division I in effective field-goal percentage, a metric that gives 1.5 times more weight to 3-pointers.
Not only has that offensive prowess allowed them to go 56-3 in their past 59 home games, but their excellent ball movement and ability to knock down shots make them dangerous opponents.
"They have a well-balanced, unselfish offense," Toole said. "It's hard to say this as an opposing coach, but at times it's fun to watch them and the way that they play the game."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.
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