RMU's dance ticket unpunched
A dream denied, Robert Morris' Russell Johnson and Lawrence Bridges wait out the final seconds in Brooklyn.
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole looks to the referee after no foul was called on a hit that landed Lucky Jones on the floor Wednesday night against Long Island in Brooklyn.
Robert Morris' Mike McFadden grabs a loose ball away from Long Island's Brandon Thompson in the first half.
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BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- It was the same opponent, the same venue. For the most part, it was even the same players.
Unfortunately for Robert Morris, it also was the same result.
The Colonials lost to Long Island, 90-73, in the Northeast Conference championship Wednesday. It was the second consecutive year Robert Morris saw its NCAA tournament dreams fall a game short on the floor of Long Island's Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center.
"It's disappointing," Colonials guard Velton Jones said. "We felt like we wanted this game."
Julian Boyd had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Blackbirds (25-8), and Jason Brickman added another 18 points and 11 assists.
The Colonials had no answer for Brickman defensively, as the point guard consistently cut through the defense with drives for layups or easy assists. His 11 assists were an NEC championship game record, and his 29 over the course of the tournament also were a new high.
"He constantly was able to beat our guards off the bounce, whether they screened or whether they didn't, it didn't really matter," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. "He got into the lane, he's an incredible decision maker."
The game got off to a rough start for Robert Morris (24-10) when Jones, the team's leading scorer, collapsed in a heap under the basket after scoring the first points of the game. He averaged 18.5 points and 5.5 assists through the first two games of the tournament.
Jones said he came down awkwardly on his ribs. He missed some time in the first and second half to receive a wrap, but returned to the game both times.
"Velton's a tough player," Robert Morris guard Coron Williams said. "I knew he was coming back."
Clearly feeling the effects of the injury, Jones finished with just 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Lucky Jones led the Colonials with 14 points.
Long Island controlled the tempo from the outset, running at a faster pace than Robert Morris is comfortable with. The Colonials stayed with Long Island for most of the first half, but Blackbirds coach Jim Ferry said he knew the game was tilting in his team's favor.
"We tried to play LIU basketball against LIU, who's better at it than we are," Toole said. "We have to play in the 60s. That's where we live, that's who we are."
After a 3-pointer from Williams put Robert Morris up, 19-15, midway through the first half, the Blackbirds ripped off a 15-2 run toward the end of the half that ultimately put them ahead for good.
The Colonials trailed at the break, 39-31, and made a run early in the second half to make the game close. Lucky Jones made a layup with 15:39 to go that cut the lead to 46-41. The Blackbirds scored the next six points, though, and led by double-digits for much of the final 10 minutes.
The exclamation point for the Blackbirds came with 9:59 to go, when C.J. Garner found Boyd for an alley-oop. The slam even managed to bring Brooklyn resident Spike Lee, who was seated courtside, to his feet.
"Me and Julian have a connection on alley-oops," Garner said. "We have all year."
Boyd, the NEC's player of the year, also showed off his versatility. A few minutes after the thunderous dunk he made back-to-back 3-point attempts to put the game out of reach.
Even though Robert Morris managed to keep up with the Blackbirds on the scoreboard down the stretch, the Colonials -- whose traditional hallmark has been shut-down defense -- weren't able to get any critical stops.
"We just couldn't rebound and get defensive stops," Velton Jones said.
Long Island will now await its NCAA tournament pairing on Selection Sunday; Robert Morris will await a bid from another postseason tournament. School officials said anything, including the NIT, was potentially in play, and that they would evaluate any potential bids as they arrive.
First Published March 8, 2012 12:00 am