It was a game of runs on Thursday night at the Sewall Center in Moon Township, PA. The Robert Morris Colonials (8-10, 3-0) were looking to stay undefeated in the NEC, while the St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (3-13, 1-2) were looking to play the role of spoiler.
Senior guard Karvel Anderson drained a contested three-pointer to start the game for the Colonials, and as he back peddled down the court, he looked into the crowd with a big grin. Anderson came into the game averaging 34 points per game in NEC play on a mind-boggling 27-42 from the floor (64.3%).
No team was able to gain the upper hand for the first nine minutes of play. Freshman guard Malik Harmon was the only offensive threat for the Red Flash in the first half. He scored 11 of St. Francis' first 13 points over that span. RMU went on a 14-6 run over the next eight minutes that allowed them to take a 28 - 19 lead. Harmon scored six more points before the half was over, but so did Anderson.
His step-back triple as time expired in the half propelled Robert Morris to a 38 - 26 lead as both teams headed to the locker rooms. Anderson couldn't help but give Harmon a little stare after his three-pointer, but it was all in good fun, as both players eventually cracked a smile.
Harmon paced the Red Flash in the first half; he scored 17 points on 6-7 shooting, and a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. Anderson led the Colonials with 17 points on 5-6 from the floor, including 4-5 from three-point land.
St. Francis was a different team in the second half. They began attacking the 2-3 RMU zone out of the high-post. When sophomore forward Ronnie Drinnon wasn't setting screens or passing out of the high-post, he was attacking the basket and scoring. A triple by guard Ben Millaud-Meunier, coupled with two baskets from Drinnon, allowed the Red Flash to cut the deficit to eight points at the first media timeout.
Robert Morris maintained that eight-point advantage for the next five minutes. However, St. Francis went on a 26-4 run that started from the 11:06 mark and didn't end until the 4:19 mark. A three-pointer by guard/forward Lucky Jones stopped the bleeding, but the damage was done - the Red Flash had the advantage and the lead, 66 - 57.
The Colonials never lost hope, as they cranked up their intensity on the defensive end. RMU forced three turnovers, two of which were steals, and generated eight points off turnovers in the last four minutes of the game.
A three-pointer by freshman forward Jeremiah Worthem and the fifth triple of the night for Anderson helped spark a 19-2 run, in which Robert Morris was also a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line, to close out the game. Three missed free throws late by St. Francis never allowed them to even tie the game, as the Colonials won 73 - 68.
Harmon was spectacular for the Red Flash, particularly in the first half. He finished the game with 21 points on 8-12 from the field. Millaud-Meunier did his best Jimmer Fredette impersonation - 17 points, 5-8 on triples, no attempts from inside the three-point line, and no rebounds.
Andersons' 24 points paced RMU; he only scored seven points in the second half, but still finished the game shooting 7-14 from the floor with five makes from beyond the arc. Jones and Worthem both ended up with 12 points each; Jones also led the team with six rebounds.
Robert Morris essentially snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. It was one of those games that head coach Andy Toole can reference for the rest of the season - about how they never gave up. You have to tip your hat to St. Francis for making a game of it, but they simply didn't make enough plays down the stretch.
The Colonials will only have one day to prepare for a road trip to Mount St. Mary's (6-10, 2-1) this Saturday. The Red Flash will return home to play Wagner (8-8, 2-1) on Saturday.