Frontcourt is standing tall for Robert Morris
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With a little more than 11 minutes to go in Robert Morris' 68-60 victory against Central Connecticut State Saturday, guard Coron Williams made a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Colonials a five-point lead.
That basket marked the first points a Colonials guard had scored all night, yet they had still led comfortably for most of the game.
One of the keys to Robert Morris' current five-game winning streak has undoubtedly been the improved play of the Colonials' big men. Against the Blue Devils, Mike McFadden, Lawrence Bridges and Lijah Thompson -- all players who do their best work down in the low post -- combined for 32 points.
"Our guards, they do a good job getting into the lane," Colonials coach Andy Toole said. "They attract a lot of defense, and now if they can drop it off to guys who are finishing, now you've got to really make tough choices as an opponent."
- Matchup: Robert Morris (21-8, 12-4 NEC) at Sacred Heart (13-16, 7-9), 7 p.m. today, William H. Pitt Center, Fairfield, Conn.
- Radio, Internet: WPIT-AM (730), rmucolonials.com.
- Robert Morris: Beat Central Connecticut State, 68-60, Saturday to extend its winning streak to five games and clinch a home game in the first round of the NEC tournament. ... Forward Russell Johnson scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Blue Devils. ... Beat Sacred Heart, 70-67, Jan. 14 at home and holds a 13-8 edge in the series against the Pioneers.
- Sacred Heart: Coming off 58-56 loss to St. Francis Saturday on a basket with 1.6 seconds left. ... In eighth place in the NEC and needs a win or loss by Mount St. Mary's and Saint Francis to clinch a spot in the NEC tournament. ... Guard Shane Gibson leads the NEC and ranks fourth nationally with 22.2 points per game.
- Hidden stat: In each of its past four road games, Robert Morris has fallen behind by double digits. It came back to win three of them.
Thompson, in particular, has increased his offensive output tremendously the past few games. After dealing with nagging injuries all season, the junior combined for 28 points in the team's two games against Bryant and Central Connecticut State last weekend. That marked the team high for the weekend and Thompson's best back-to-back scoring output all season.
It would be easy to say that Thompson has expanded his game the past few weeks, but, according to Toole, he has done just the opposite.
"I think he's really simplified things," Toole said. "He's been more ready when he's gotten his opportunities to get the basketball, and he's been simpler when he's gotten it. He's caught the ball, he's been ready, he's elevated and he's scored."
Of course, to score those points Thompson first had to get back on the floor. He missed four games earlier this season with a broken foot and sat out the Colonials' Feb. 11 game against Saint Francis with back spasms.
He said those injuries are still lingering, and his minutes have been cut back from earlier in the season. He played just 30 combined minutes in the team's past two games. He has been remarkably efficient with those minutes, though, averaging almost a point per minute when he's on the court.
"I get more rest," Thompson said. "After a couple of minutes, my foot, my back start killing me at times. If I'm out there too long, I start doing bad. It's pretty simple."
After Saturday's win, Toole pointed to Thompson as one of the players who stepped up his play toward the end of last season when the Colonials made their run to the NEC title game. He said he "couldn't explain" how valuable Thompson's productivity could be because of the balance it brings to his team's offense.
That balance could be especially important this weekend as the Colonials close out the regular season with road games at Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac. Robert Morris has clinched a top four conference finish and a home game in the first round of the NEC tournament, but could move into the third seed if it can gain a game on St. Francis of New York this weekend. The teams are tied, but the Terriers hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their 81-68 win Jan. 28 at Robert Morris.
First Published February 23, 2012 12:00 am