It was Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, better known as "The Flu Game", in which Michael Jordan scored 38 points, and led the Chicago Bulls to a 90-88 victory over the Utah Jazz. The win put them up 3-2 in the series; they won the NBA Championship two days later. It was an epic performance by Jordan, one that added to his legend.
Senior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate had his own flu game Thursday night. His career-high 21 points propelled the Robert Morris Colonials past the Bryant Bulldogs on ESPNU. Robert Morris needed every one of his 21 points, as they narrowly defeated Bryant, 79-76.
When asked after the game how he fought through the flu, Myers-Pate responded, "Tonight, I just fed off the crowd. The crowd had so much energy I just wanted to win the game for them."
The Bulldogs tried working the ball inside early in the game; three of their first four baskets were layups. However, Myers-Pate scored nine of his 21 points in the first eight minutes of the game. His triple right before the first media timeout saw RMU take an 18-8 advantage.
Bryant hung tough; they made timely baskets that ended small runs by the Colonials. They trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half. A bucket by senior forward Alex Francis with under a minute remaining cut the deficit to just eight points going into halftime. Robert Morris led the Bulldogs, 42-34.
Francis led Bryant with 10 points and four rebounds. Myers-Pate had 14 points for RMU on a perfect 6-6 from the floor, including two makes from beyond the arc.
The Colonials opened the second half on a 14-6 run, capped-off by a layup plus the foul by junior guard Charles Oliver at the 12:52 mark. But, the Bulldogs refused to quit, and turned to Francis to lead them back into the game.
His 11 points over the next 10 minutes, along with five straight points from senior guard Corey Maynard, brought them within one possession of Robert Morris. Again, Myers-Pate came up big for RMU: a triple from the left wing allowed his team to reclaim a six-point advantage with just 2:15 left in the game.
Back-to-back three-point plays by Bryant cut the Colonials lead to just one point. Two free throws by Myers-Pate pushed the lead to three. Again, Francis answered: his layup with just 14 seconds left in the game kept the Bulldogs alive.
But, senior guard Karvel Anderson calmly drained two free throws and a Maynard miss on the final inbounds play for Bryant, allowed Robert Morris to escape with the win, 79-76.
Francis led all scorers with 30 points on 12-19 shooting; he also had a double-double with 10 rebounds. Junior guard Dyami Starks came into the game as the reigning NEC Player of the Week after averaging 27 points on 58.6% shooting last week. He was unable to come close to those lofty numbers in this one: 10 points on just 4-13 from the floor, including 2-10 from beyond the arc.
Anderson led RMU with 24 points, and added a highlight-reel block. Myers-Pate was 8-9 from the field, including 3-3 from long distance, on his way to a career-high 21 points.
Junior guard/forward Lucky Jones came into the game just 12 points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career. He was unable to reach that number tonight as he struggled with his shot, going just 1-12 from the field. He did snag eight rebounds and net four assists to go along with his five points.
After the game head coach Andy Toole was asked if he was surprised by how Myers-Pate found the energy to play. He was very complimentary of his point guard, saying, "Doesn't surprise me at all. I've seen him do it for four years."
It's the third straight victory for the Colonials since they suspended four players; it's also their seventh consecutive NEC victory. They'll look to stay atop the mountain on Saturday, as they finish up their four-game home stretch against the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (5-15, 1-5). The Bulldogs will play at the Sacred Heart Pioneers (4-18, 1-6) on Sunday.