Colonials clinch berth in NEC playoffs
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Even for a team that usually makes its living beyond the arc, Robert Morris put forth one of its best outside shooting performances this season.
But for much of the night, it wasn't good enough to put away one of the most inefficient offensive teams in the Northeast Conference.
Leading by three points with less than four minutes remaining, the Colonials needed someone to deliver them a late-season win.
Sure enough, guard Karvel Anderson did just that, making 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to build a 70-61 lead with 2:20 remaining and igniting a 13-4 run that led to Robert Morris' 77-65 victory against Monmouth Thursday night at Sewall Center.
"My teammates kept telling me to shoot the whole game, and I had two good opportunities and it felt good," said Anderson, the Colonials' leading scorer.
"I never shy away from the big shot. I always feel like I have confidence in myself to make it."
Just as they have for the past several weeks, forwards Russell Johnson and Lucky Jones led the Colonials with 20 and 19 points. Anderson added 14 points for a team that shot 53.2 percent, its best mark in nearly a month.
With the victory, Robert Morris clinched a spot in the NEC tournament and assured itself of no worse than a fifth-place finish in the final conference standings.
The Colonials (19-9, 11-4 NEC) shot 55.6 percent in the first half, building as much as a 10-point lead. But the Hawks (10-18, 5-10) routinely found ways to stay close, largely through their own accurate shooting, as they made 52 percent of their field-goal attempts in the first half.
"They compete like crazy," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said of Monmouth. "We talked about that before the game -- they're fighting for their playoff lives, they're starting four seniors and they're going to try and compete, make the game chaotic.
"We have to be strong in what our formula is and strong in our decision-making. I thought it was a well-earned, hard-fought win."
Robert Morris led the entire second half, but the Colonials never built a comfortable advantage until Anderson, who has had problems with his wrist the past two weeks, effectively put away the Hawks with his only two 3-pointers.
"We're very productive on offense and we work on it every day," Anderson said. "People have confidence in that.
"When it's my chance, I try to step up and make it, but, when it's not, I let my teammates do their thing."
For the second consecutive game, the Colonials were without senior guard Velton Jones because of a shoulder injury.
His absence was magnified against Monmouth's full-court press, which forced 18 Robert Morris turnovers and led to 22 points.
The Hawks, who were playing without leading scorer Andrew Nicholas, had three players in double figures led by guard Jesse Steele's 16 points.
Though the Colonials play host Saturday to last-place Fairleigh Dickinson, Toole knows his team cannot afford to look too far ahead as the regular season nears its end, especially with Velton Jones' playing status uncertain.
"We like to learn the hard way because we're stubborn," Toole said.
"We learned the very hard way and, thankfully, we have learned, but there's still a lot more left to try to accomplish and stay focused on."
First Published February 22, 2013 12:00 am