Saturday, February 16, 2013

RMU back on top

The Robert Morris Colonials (18-9, 10-4) defeated the Sacred Heart Pioneers (9-15, 6-6) by a score of 68-63. It wasn't always pretty, and Robert Morris was without their leader Velton Jones, but a Wagner 89-75 win over Bryant has RMU atop first place for the first time all season. Long Island defeated Fairleigh Dickinson so they also have improved to 10-4 in conference, but Robert Morris' win earlier in the season over the Blackbirds gives them the tiebreaker.

Before I get more into the NEC overall, I have a few thoughts on this game. RMU lost to Quinnipiac the other night for two main reasons: They went 5-of-13 from the stripe and had seven offensive rebounds to QU's 19. This game, those stats tilted towards Robert Morris' favor as they went 23-of-27 from the line and had 36 rebounds to Sacred Heart's 32. Lucky Jones again led the team with seven rebounds.

RMU overcame the loss of Velton Jones
at SHU (photo courtesy northeastconf
RMU played an efficient game for the most part. Again, Velton Jones did not play with his shoulder/chest injury and don't be surprised if he doesn't play in the last two home games next Thursday and Saturday against Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson, respectively. There's a rumor floating around that Jones has a slightly torn pec, which makes sense if you remember watching how the original injury happened at St. Francis-Brooklyn and how he's used his right arm sense (he pretty much hasn't). I don't remember seeing Jones take a jump shot since the injury and teams are eventually going to start playing way of of him, taking away passing lanes, and make him beat them with his left-handed floater.

Lucky Jones, Anthony Myers-Pate, Karvel Anderson, and Mike McFadden all had double digits in scoring and Coron Williams and Russell Johnson had eight and nine respectively. Williams had been M.I.A prior to these last few games but has been very efficient from the field. Karvel Anderson went on a nice scoring stretch in the middle of the second half to put RMU up double-digits. Anderson went 4-of-11 from the field but 3-of-5 from three and I am liking his aggressiveness despite battling a minor wrist injury.

Here's the problem though: this should not have been a five point game. I know Shane Gibson got hot towards the end of the game, but time and time again we've seen a late-game offense that isn't getting points and turning the ball over at an alarming rate. It's difficult without Velton Jones, because when you're running the shot clock down you find your guards in a lot of iso situations having to create shots for themselves, and no one does that better than Jones... but still, you have to find a way. I think there are times late in games where if shooters are open, you have to take the shot, even if it's early in the shot clock. Why not? It's better than anything else they've shown late in games.

The parity of the NEC has been unreal this year; anyone can go down on any given night. With that being said, isn't it funny how with four games remaining things are really shaping up like everyone thought? RMU and LIU are atop the standings and Wagner is only a half game back of third place. Even Quinnipiac, winners of six of their last seven, are looking a lot more like the team who was five minutes away from the NEC championship game last year. Bryant has been a nice story and I still think they can win the NEC, but like we've said all year, it's hard to go a whole season and play at a high level with a seven man rotation. I doubt RMU and LIU have enjoyed all the injuries they've endured all year but the whole roster has been tested. For example, David Appolon has seen more minutes this year than anyone could have imagined.

There are four games left. The formula to home court is simple: win out. Anthony Myers-Pate is going to have to continue his strong play at point guard with Velton Jones out and both Coron Williams and Karvel Anderson need to be a bit more consistent. All and all, I do believe this squad wins out and goes into the NEC tournament as the one seed.

--Chris Cappella

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