Revenge on Robert Morris' minds vs. Long Island tonight
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Velton Jones' most vivid memory from the Northeast Conference championship game last year is not from the game itself.
Jones said what sticks in his mind the most is watching Long Island's fans storm the court after the Blackbirds' 85-82 overtime win, which propelled them to the NCAA tournament and sent Robert Morris home for the postseason.
"They took what was ours last year," Jones said. "That's our goal every year, to get to the NCAA tournament, and they took it away from us."
Tonight, the Colonials will get their first crack at Long Island since that championship game. While there will be no NCAA tournament bid on the line when the Blackbirds visit Sewall Center, the game undoubtedly will be the biggest of Robert Morris' season thus far.
- Matchup: Long Island (14-6, 8-0 NEC) at Robert Morris (15-6, 6-2), 7 p.m. today, Sewall Center, Moon.
- TV, radio, Internet: Root Sports, WPIT-AM (730), rmucolonials.com.
- Robert Morris: Coming off an 81-73 overtime win against Monmouth Saturday. ... Leading scorer Velton Jones (17.0 points per game) scored 35 points against the Hawks and became the 20th player in school history to break 1,000 career points. ... Jones was named the NEC's co-player of the week last week and teammate Lucky Jones was the conference's rookie of the week.
- Long Island: Beat Wagner, 73-66, Saturday. ... Has not lost since Dec. 14, a 73-62 setback to Norfolk State. ... Won NEC championship last year with an 85-82 win against Robert Morris. ... Ranked No. 21 in CollegeInsider.com's Mid-Major poll. ... Julian Boyd (16.5 ppg) and Jamal Olasewere (16.3 ppg) lead the Blackbirds offensively.
- Long Island: Long Island leads NEC in scoring (79.2 points per game). Robert Morris ranks first in scoring defense, allowing 62.0.
Long Island (14-6, 8-0 NEC) sits atop the conference, two games ahead of the four-way tie for second that includes the Colonials (15-6, 6-2).
"It's a huge game," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. "I think it's really going to separate whether or not we're going to be contending for a regular-season NEC championship or if we just pretend to be."
A win against the Blackbirds likely will require a better effort than what the Colonials have put out recently. They won both games last weekend, against Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth, but Jones and Toole agreed that the team did not play its best.
Robert Morris struggled to put away the Knights (1-18, 0-8), who had lost 14 games in a row. Saturday, it trailed Monmouth (4-17, 2-6) by as many as 15 points in the second half before charging back to win in overtime.
"There's some mistakes we made that we need to clean up," Toole said. "I keep saying that and I don't always see the mistakes getting cleaned up. It's getting worrisome because there's only 10 games left. Guys' seasons and guys' careers go by so fast, and they don't even realize it."
The Colonials seem to have the talent to beat the Blackbirds, and a victory could provide them with an emotional lift. Still, Toole said it was important to stay focused on each game.
"I think any league win's a good win," he said. "A win against LIU obviously would put us in better position in terms of league standings. But I think our league is so much improved this year, it's hard to win every game.
"I can't just say that one win will springboard us to 10 straight."
Toole said he has not specifically used the championship game of last season in preparation for tonight, noting many differences in both teams from last year to this. Jones, though, said it would be a factor tonight.
"I was thinking about it the day after [the championship]," he said.
"I've been waiting for this game for a while."
First Published January 26, 2012 12:00 am