There is something about the Robert Morris Colonials. Since suspending four players nine games ago, they're 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 Blackbirds team that started the game extremely focused on the offensive end.
LIU Brooklyn attacked the seams in the Robert Morris 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, and junior guard Gerrell Martin drained two triples that gave the Blackbirds a 10-8 advantage going into the first media timeout.
RMU outscored LIU Brooklyn 14-7 over the next four minutes, but Hawkins went down after he stole a pass in transition. The Blackbirds responded by going on a 22-5 run to close the half.
Senior point guard Jason 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. LIU 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 Robert Morris. 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 his team afloat.
Senior guard Karvel Anderson went the entire first half without taking a single shot attempt. That trend didn’t continue in the second half. His first three-pointer of the game brought his team within 10 points of LIU Brooklyn 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."
The Blackbirds 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 RMU, which included three makes from beyond the arc and an acrobatic layup that tied the game at 61. A Brickman triple finally ended the Colonials' run, but Robert Morris had a 66-64 lead with just 48 seconds remaining.
Anderson slammed the door shut on LIU Brooklyn in the final seconds of the game. Over the last 17 seconds of the game, he scored nine points, as RMU 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 the Blackbirds. 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."
The Colonials 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.