The Belmont Bruins have won over 96 percent of their home games over the last four seasons, and they fed off the crowd at the Curb Event Center on Friday night. They added to their home winning percent with their 82-71 victory over the Robert Morris Colonials in front of a loud and rambunctious home crowd.
Robert Morris got off to a hot start, as they led 11-5 after senior guard Karvel Anderson drilled his second three-pointer of the game just two minutes into the contest. Then the turnovers started. They turned the ball over on eight of their next nine possessions, and Belmont capitalized by going on a 9-0 run that featured two dunks and two layups.
RMU regained their composure, and went on a 12-0 run that featured triples by junior guard/forward Lucky Jones and Anderson. Then the OVC Player of the Year, senior guard/forward JJ Mann, decided it was time to put his mark on the game.
He connected on back-to-back triples that tied the game at 25, and added a layup shortly after, that allowed the Bruins to take a 27-25 lead into the under-eight media timeout.
Belmont scored the next nine points coming out of the timeout, and never let off the gas. Mann hit another triple at the 2:14 mark, and sophomore guard Craig Bradshaw banked in a three-pointer that gave them a nine-point advantage going into halftime, 44-35.
A rested Colonials squad was able to limit the Bruins to just one basket going into the first media timeout of the second half. A Jones jumper just before the timeout brought Robert Morris within six of Belmont, 47-41.
However, a 12-3 run by the Bruins going into the next media timeout gave them a 15-point lead, and they comfortably defeated RMU, 82-71.
Anderson led the Colonials with 23 points on 7-14 shooting, including 4-8 from beyond the arc. Jones scored 15 points on 6-17 from the field, and pulled down nine rebounds. Sophomore forward Aaron Tate had a game-high 10 rebounds.
Mann was spectacular for Belmont. He finished with a game-high 25 points on 7-17 from the field. He added six rebounds, two assists, and three steals as well. Senior forward Drew Windler dropped 18 points on 6-12 shooting, and Bradshaw finished the game with 17 points on 5-11 shooting, and had a game-high five assists.
With only seven active players, it was hard for Robert Morris to keep up with a Bruins team that got in transition after every missed shot. They used ball reversal and ran players all over the court on the offensive end, which tired RMU.
For the Colonials, the careers of Anderson and senior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate came to an end. Anderson reflected on the season in the post-game press conference, "It was a crazy ride. We overcame a lot of adversity, and I wouldn't trade it or anything...I'm going to miss this team."
Despite all the turnovers, Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole was proud of his team, "Our guys gave everything they could. It wasn't anything less than a high-level effort."
Belmont advanced to the third round of the NIT, and will await the winner between the Illinois Illini and the Clemson Tigers on Sunday.