The Robert Morris Colonials (10-10, 5-0) only had eight players in the building on Thursday night when they faced the Sacred Heart Pioneers (4-16, 1-4). Freshman forward Jeremiah Worthem and guard Britton Lee, as well as walk-on sophomore guards Evan Grey and Shaire Tolson-Ford, were suspended due to a violation of University policy. Despite that, the Colonials used a balanced attack and forced the Pioneers into 17 turnovers on their way to a 91 - 65 win.
The last time these two teams met, senior guard Karvel Anderson scored a career-high 36 points. Robert Morris didn't need such a herculean-effort from Anderson on Thursday. Junior guard/forward Lucky Jones and sophomore forward Stephan Hawkins reached double-figures by halftime, along with Anderson.
Hawkins scored the first seven points for RMU, and they led 13 - 5 going into the first media timeout. Sacred Heart couldn't solve the Colonials' 2-3 zone and missed some looks around the basket early. The Pioneers didn't make a two-point basket until the 11:16 mark, and didn't make a shot around the basket until the 9:47 mark.
When asked about where his confidence came from, Hawkins responded, "I mean just the encouragement from teammates."
Robert Morris traded two baskets for one over the last ten minutes of the first half, and went on a 9-3 run to close the half as they headed to the locker room leading 48 - 33. RMU scored 22 points in the paint to Sacred Hearts' 14. They also had seven points on second-chance opportunities, while the Pioneers had zero.
Senior forward Louis Montes scored the first seven points of the second half for Sacred Heart, but the Colonials scored eight points over that same span, and a 13-2 run over the next four minutes helped push the Robert Morris lead to 25 points.
The Pioneers never got closer than 22 points for the rest of the game. RMU led by as many as 32 points in the second half, and often converted turnovers into layups. The Colonials got 14 points off turnovers in the second half, and finished with 19 in the game.
Sacred Heart was led by Montes who scored 23 points on 8-12 shooting, including 3-7 on three-pointers. Junior point guard Phil Gaetano finished with a game-high 10 assists, but was only 1-7 from the field.
Robert Morris had six players reach double-figures. Jones led the team with 18 points and had a double-double with 11 rebounds. Anderson finished with 15 points on 5-10 from the field, but only had one triple. The three-man bench consisting of freshman point guard Kavon Stewart, sophomore guard Charles Oliver, and sophomore forward Aaron Tate combined to score 30 points, six rebounds, five assists, and only two turnovers.
Head coach Andy Toole didn't have much to say about the absence of the four suspended players, "You probably know as much as I do at this point."
When asked about why he chose junior guard David Appolon to start, he said, "I picked a name out of a hat."
Toole was extremely proud of the guys who did play and applauded their focus in sustaining their effort for the entire 40 minutes.
RMU ran over the Pioneers on Thursday, but they'll have a big test on Saturday when the Wagner Seahawks (9-9, 3-2) come to town. Wagner was the preseason pick to win the NEC, but are only 3-2 in conference play, and looking for a staple win. The Colonials are looking to take a commanding lead in the standings, and to capitalize on three consecutive home games.
Sacred Heart will travel to Loretta, PA, to face the St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (3-15, 1-4).