Robert Morris hangs on for OT victory vs. Wagner
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It was a lead that once appeared insurmountable, other times comfortable and, in many other instances, large enough to produce a win.
But that Robert Morris lead steadily decreased and eventually disappeared completely. Thankfully for the Colonials, a measure of redemption was found in overtime.
After leading by as many as 21 points in the first half and 15 at halftime, Robert Morris withstood a frenzied late run from Wagner to hold on for an 83-79 victory in overtime Saturday night at Sewall Center.
The win boosted the second-place Colonials (17-8, 9-3 Northeast Conference) to a two-game lead over the Seahawks (13-10, 7-5).
"It would have been a devastating loss for us had we not been able to hold on, but we were able to make enough plays to barely hang on," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said.
The win was the ninth in the past 10 games for Robert Morris.
Though the Colonials led by as many as 21 points in the first half and maintained a double-digit lead most of the second half, Wagner worked its way back into the game with a relentless, full-court press that forced Robert Morris into 18 turnovers.
With Velton Jones, the Colonials' primary ball-handler, limited by injury and his backup, Anthony Myers-Pate, out for the game, the scheme proved to be particularly effective.
Robert Morris' lead dwindled to one point in the waning seconds and finally vanished completely when Wagner guard Kenneth Ortiz drove through an opening in the middle of the lane for a layup that forced overtime.
Even with such momentum working against them, the Colonials held firm.
"I didn't have any doubt in my team," guard Coron Williams said. "We're a team that perseveres through a lot, and I knew we would. I knew this was a great opportunity for us."
The teams mostly exchanged baskets in the first four minutes of overtime, with neither the Seahawks nor the Colonials building more than a one-possession lead. With Robert Morris leading by one with less than 20 seconds left, Wagner turned the ball over in a sequence that ended with Robert Morris guard Karvel Anderson making two free throws.
The Colonials chose to foul with 3.3 seconds left on Wagner's ensuing possession. The Seahawks made the first free throw, but missed the back end.
Forward Lucky Jones then sank two free throws to ensure the victory.
Jones and forward Russell Johnson each recorded a team-high 21 points, leading a group of four Colonials players in double figures. Ortiz and guard Latif Rivers each scored 22 for Wagner.
Any elation or relief from the victory will be short-lived because Robert Morris returns to the road for its next two games.
The Colonials hope they can put the lessons learned from a near collapse that would significantly have altered its season to good use.
"The thing I'm proud of is that we figured out a way to win the game, and that's the most important thing," Toole said. "As long as these guys are willing to receive the message, we have a lot that we can teach and we have a lot that we can learn from a win."
First Published February 10, 2013 12:00 am