RMU Colonials Storm Back Against LIU Brooklyn

Paul Vladuchick

The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (8-17, 3-8) let a 16-point second-half lead slip through fingers, as the Robert Morris Colonials (17-11, 12-1) won 73 - 64, and clinched a share of the NEC regular-season championship.

There is something about this Robert Morris team. Since suspending four players nine games ago, the Colonials are 8-1. Tonight, they lost sophomore forward Stephan Hawkins to an ankle injury early in the first half. That left them with just seven active players against an LIU Brooklyn team that started the game extremely focused on the offensive end.

The Blackbirds attacked the seams in RMU's 2-3 zone to start the game. Sophomore forward E.J. Reed received direct passes from the wing into the left block. He scored four early points for LIU, and junior guard Gerrell Martin drained two triples which gave Brooklyn a 10 - 8 advantage going into the first media timeout.

Robert Morris outscored the Blackbirds 14-7 over the next four minutes, but Hawkins went down after he stole a pass in transition. LIU responded by going on a 22-5 run to close the half. Brickman picked up seven first half assists, and absolutely shredded the Colonials' defense with well-timed passes that went from the top of the circle directly to players around the basket for easy layups. Brooklyn went into halftime leading 39 - 29, and had all the momentum.

A 7-1 run to start the second half by the Blackbirds gave them a 16-point advantage, and it looked like they were going to run away from RMU. Junior guard David Appolon wasn't about to lose at home without a fight. His activity on the offensive glass netted him four points on putbacks, and kept Robert Morris afloat.

Senior guard Karvel Anderson went the entire first half without taking a single shot attempt; he wasn't about to repeat that in the second half. His first three-pointer of the game brought his team within 10 points of LIU at the 13:16 mark. Anderson was critical of himself for his lack of aggressive early in the game, "I feel like I took myself away most of the time, I wasn't for whatever reason, as mentally engaged as I should have been."

Brooklyn didn't fold, and they maintained a double-digit lead for the next six minutes by getting good looks around the basket and converting them. However, they couldn't prevent Anderson from taking over the game down the stretch.

He scored 13 points during an 18-3 run by the Colonials, which included three makes from beyond the arc and an acrobatic layup that tied the game at 61. A Brickman triple finally ended the RMU run, but Robert Morris had a 66 - 64 lead with just 48 seconds remaining.

Anderson slammed the door shut on the Blackbirds in the final seconds of the game; he scored nine points in the last 17 seconds, as the Colonials won, 73 - 64.

Brickman had a team-high 11 points on a very efficient 4-5 shooting; he also had a game-high eight assists for LIU. Martin also finished with 11 points, but didn't score in the second half.

Anderson led all scorers with 26 points, all in the second half, on 8-10 from the floor, and a perfect 5-5 from three-point distance. Appolon had a career-high 13 points and nine rebounds, five of which were offensive boards.

When asked after the game how Anderson got himself going in the second half, he joked, "Dave threw a Gatorade at me in the locker room at halftime, so it kind of woke me up a little bit."

Head coach Andy Toole was proud of his team's comeback, "At some point in time, I am not exactly sure when it was...guys just rallied together and started playing with an energy and an enthusiasm and a togetherness that was fun to watch."

RMU can win the NEC regular-season title this Saturday at home against the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers (16-12, 7-6), and secure the top-seed in the NEC Tournament which begins March 5th. LIU Brooklyn must defeat the St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (8-18, 6-7) on Saturday if they want to keep their NEC Tournament chances alive.

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