For the third straight game, Robert Morris trailed by double-digits in the second half. They trailed by 16 against LIU Brooklyn last Thursday, and trailed St. Francis Brooklyn by 12 on Saturday. Tonight, against Fairleigh Dickinson, the Colonials were down by as many as 15 points before they snatched the victory from the jaws of defeat.
A big reason why RMU was down late was because sophomore forward Stephan Hawkins was in street clothes. He gutted-out 31 invaluable minutes last Saturday that helped Robert Morris clinch the NEC regular-season championship. However, the Colonials have loftier goals in mind, and chose to rest Hawkins - ankle injury.
With Hawkins on the bench, the Knights leveraged their size advantage early in the contest, particularly senior forward Scooter Gillette. His two early dunks powered FDU to an early lead. Head coach Andy Toole knew Gillette would be a factor in the game. On his post-game radio show he said, "He's got such great size, and they do a good job of trying to getting him the ball."
Senior guard Karvel Anderson did everything in his power to not allow the game to get away from RMU in the first half. He scored 17 of Robert Morris' 21 points from the 16:32 mark until there were just six minutes remaining; they led, 25 - 24.
Anderson couldn't prevent his team from relinquishing the lead, however. The Knights went on a 15-4 run to close the half, and took a nine-point advantage as they headed to the locker room, 39 - 30.
The Colonials shot just 10-33 (30.3%) from the field in the first half, while FDU was 13-30 (43.3%). The Knights also were 7-16 on three-pointers.
Senior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate single-handedly sparked a 9-2 run to open the second half that brought RMU within two points of FDU. However, All-NEC point guard Sidney Sanders Jr. scored or assisted on the next 14 points for the Knights, which saw them extend their lead to double-digits, 57 - 47 at the 9:29 mark.
After five consecutive makes from the charity stripe, FDU had their largest lead of the game at 15, and for a second, it looked like Robert Morris might fold. Myers-Pate would have none of it. His triple from the left corner started an 18-2 run that ended with his team claiming a one-point advantage, 65 - 64 with just 1:25 remaining.
Junior guard David Appolon was impressive on both ends of the floor with his activity. His putback after an offensive rebound brought his team within one point of the Knights. He followed that up by stealing the inbounds pass and laying the ball in to give the Colonials the lead.
Not to be outdone, junior guard/forward Lucky Jones had two blocks down the stretch for RMU that kept them within striking distance.
Robert Morris never relinquished the lead after Appolon's layup. Anderson snagged a key offensive rebound with 33 seconds left, was fouled, and sank both free throws that sealed the victory for the Colonials, 69 - 64.
FDU had four players reach double-figures led by Gillette's team-high 14 points. Sanders Jr. had 11 points, but was only 5-15 from the floor, and 0-4 on triples.
Anderson had a game-high 22 points on 7-16 shooting, and is now one-point shy of reaching 1,000 for his two-year career at RMU. Jones had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Toole attributed his teams defense as to why they were able to get back into the game, "That's a way we can defend all the time I think. I think when we're locked-in and engaged we can defend for longer periods of time than we did tonight."
He was particularly pleased with how his team defended the three-point line in the second half, "I think a key stat for us is in the second half was that they went 1-12 from three."
When asked if coming back from double-digits to win games has become his team's M.O., Toole responded, "It's not the preferred recipe for success; however, we've been fortunate these last couple."
Toole's team is now 9-1 with eight players and 1-0 with just seven. When asked about the difficulties of having only seven players, he chuckled, "Just add it to all the other challenges I guess."
Robert Morris will play at Wagner (17-11, 11-4) on Saturday to conclude NEC play, while the Knights will face the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers (17-13, 8-7) in a game that carries a lot of implications in terms of seeding for the upcoming NEC Tournament.