Robert Morris routs Bryant, 91-38
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Robert Morris coach Andy Toole's pregame message to his players was almost a plea.
The Colonials, he said, could not keep giving opponents big leads at the start. Couldn't treat defense as if it were an option rather than a necessity. Most of all, they simply had to show they cared about saving their season.
Apparently, they did.
Banned from their own locker room during practice and forced to do their own laundry as part of Toole's tough-love regimen, the Colonials went on a 14-2 run Thursday night while opening huge early leads that led to a 91-38 rout of Bryant.
"We didn't have a real nice week. We weren't able to get in the locker room, we can't wear our [practice] gear," said Velton Jones, who scored 16 points. "We ate our pregame meal in the laundry room. We haven't been playing like Robert Morris in the past, so I guess that helped us."
They were anonymous in practice in their nondescript and logo-less gear, but the Colonials (10-12, 6-5 Northeast Conference) --for one night -- regained the identity of the team that nearly upset Villanova in the NCAA tournament in March.
"This is nothing that we shouldn't do all the time," said Karon Abraham, who was benched at the start but scored 15 points. "We are the defending champs."
The Colonials had lost three of their past four games and were closer to 10th place than to second in the conference. Now, they've got a jump start on a three-game homestand that continues Saturday against Central Connecticut State (15-7, 8-3), an 86-79 winner Thursday night against Saint Francis, Pa.
"They're talented and intelligent," Toole said. "When you're talented, you're capable of playing games like this. When you're intelligent, you know when you've messed up. We get happy with our success and think we're good again and we think we're this big, bad team. And then I have to remind them we're 10-12 and 6-5."
Lijah Thompson, the most-accurate shooter on a team that came in 11th in the 12-team conference in field-goal accuracy, had a team-high 18 points and was a force defensively. Russell Johnson, also held out of the starting lineup, had 14.
The Colonials shot 57.1 percent (32 of 56) and went 14 of 21 from 3-point range, 10 of 12 in the second half, and held Bryant to 22.7 percent shooting (10 of 44).
Toole talked beforehand of his players not performing as well as they practiced, but they were in overdrive from the start against Bryant (7-16, 5-6). The Bulldogs, winners of five of their previous seven a season after going 1-29, couldn't match Robert Morris' pace or intensity.
"When we're not playing defense, we're not playing like Robert Morris can play," Jones said.
"We knew we had to play as hard as we can."
All night, there was more offense going on at the kids' basket located adjacent to the student section than there was at Bryant's end of the floor.
Bryant's leading scorer, freshman Alex Francis, was coming off a 25-point game against Mount St. Mary's but, guarded mostly by Thompson, did not score until converting a free throw with 12:41 remaining. He finished with three points on 1-for-5 shooting after scoring 41 points in two games last week.
"You stop the drive, you stop him," Johnson said.
Even with Abraham and Johnson not in the lineup, the Colonials took a 20-9 lead on Gary Wallace's driving layup at the 10:03 mark. This from a team that fell behind Sacred Heart by 14 and Quinnipiac by 12 in losing its previous two games.
After that, Robert Morris never let Bryant mount a comeback that would have made a game of it, putting together a followup, 12-2 run in which Jones hit two 3s and a mid-range jumper.
First Published February 4, 2011 12:16 am