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2014 NIT Tournament Recap: Robert Morris Slays Top-Seed St. John's

For the second year in a row, the Robert Morris Colonials (22-13, 14-2) have upset a number-one seed in the opening round of the NIT. They defeated the St. John's Red Storm (20-13, 10-8) at Carnesecca Arena in New York.

Paul Vladuchick

This game was a one-sided affair.  The Robert Morris Colonials led wire-to-wire in a game that clearly meant more to them than the St. John's Red Storm.  Robert Morris flew out of the gates on a 19-2 run powered by senior guard Karvel Anderson and junior guard/forward Lucky Jones.

Anderson connected on his first three attempts from beyond the arc of the game, while Jones converted five of six free throws to go along with a triple during the run.  Jones added one more three-pointer before the under-12 media timeout, 22-6 RMU.

St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin turned to seldom used sophomore guard/forward Max Hooper to try and get his team back into the game.  Hooper was able to sneak into soft spots in the Colonials' 2-3 zone, and connected on his first three-point attempt of the game.

SJU finished the half with an additional six three-pointers; however, they weren't able to slow down Robert Morris on the defensive end of the floor.  RMU outscored the Red Storm 27-18 after Hooper's first make from beyond the arc, and took a 49-27 lead into halftime.

The second half wasn't any different for the first 15 minutes.  Senior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate joined the three-point party coming out of the first media timeout, and an Anderson triple, assisted by Myers-Pate, at the 9:00 mark gave the Colonials their largest lead of the game at 26 points, 68-42.

With just under six minutes left in the game, St. John's decided to make their run.  A three-pointer by senior guard/forward Marc-Antoine Bourgault sparked a 15-0 run that brought them within eight by the 3:33 mark.

For a second, it seemed like a suddenly engaged SJU team might make a comeback for the ages.  However, Anderson and Jones shut the door on that possibility.  Jones snared a rebound in traffic and pushed the ball up the floor only to find a trailing Anderson who drilled his ninth triple of the game.

Robert Morris went up double-digits again.  It was the nail in the coffin for the Red Storm.  They hit a few desperation triples at the end, but RMU converted 10 of 14 free throws with less than a minute to go to maintain their lead.  They won comfortably, 89-78.

Hooper was the only player who seemed to care for St. John's.  He finished with 18 points on 6-12 shooting, all triples.  Junior guard D'Angelo Harrison looked like anything but a First-Team All-Big East Selection on Tuesday night.  He went just 3-13 from the field for a total of nine points and looked disinterested the entire game.  Sophomore guard Jamal Branch had a game-high 22 points on 8-14 shooting.

The team was without freshman guard Rysheed Jordan who was ruled out just a few hours before the game due to tonsillitis.

The Colonials were led by Anderson's career-high 38 points on 12-20 shooting.  He was 9-15 from beyond the arc, and 5-6 from the charity stripe.  Jones had a game-high nine rebounds to go along with his 25 points.  He was 6-12 on three-pointers, and Myers-Pate led all players with eight assists.

Robert Morris made 50 percent of their three-pointers (16-32) in the game.  It was a spectacular shooting display in which everything looked like it was going in.

In the post-game press conference, a dejected Steve Lavin said, "We got beat to the punch in every aspect of play."  He added, "We dug ourselves too deep of a hole to get over the top against a good team."

Conversely, RMU head coach Andy Toole was proud of how his team responded after a disappointing loss in the NEC Championship game, "We came into this game wanting to continue our season."

The Colonials will play at the Belmont Bruins (25-9, 14-2) in the next round of the NIT on Friday at 9:30pm on ESPNU.  They may have to do that without junior guard David Appolon who was injured in the first half of the game, and was on crutches in the second half.

While no x-rays were immediately conducted, Robert Morris assistant coach Michael Byrnes told ESPN 970 after the game that the team's physician speculated that his foot is broken.