Good teams bounce back. Both the Robert Morris Colonials and the Sacred Heart Pioneers suffered tough losses on Friday night. The former lost on national television in a game that they were leading with just 5:13 remaining in the game, while the ladder lost in the closing seconds against the St. Francis (PA) Red Storm.
On his team's ability to bounce back, senior guard/forward Lucky Jones said, "We had refocus our mind and our energy and make sure we got it done today."
Sacred Heart looked to push the ball in transition off back-to-back turnovers by Robert Morris to start the game. Sophomore forward De'Von Barnett scored six of his 15 first half points in the first three minutes of the game that helped give the Pioneers a 11-10 lead going into the first media timeout.
A layup in transition by junior guard Rodney Pryor helped ignite a 17-8 run for the Colonials. Pryor, freshman guard Marcquise Reed, Jones would score all but two of those points during the run; the trio combined to go 6-7 during the stretch.
Their efficiency on the offensive end, combined with their soft press after made baskets, prevented SHU from getting in transition. Despite 15 first half points on a perfect 7-7 from the field by Barnett, the trio of Pryor, Reed, and Jones powered RMU to a 47-35 halftime lead.
Both teams struggled from the field to open the second half: Robert Morris started the half 2-5 amidst three turnovers, while Sacred Heart went 0-5. The slow start didn't deter the Pioneers, however. They increased their energy level on the defensive end and took advantage of several Colonial turnovers. A three-point play by freshman guard Cane Broome started a 9-3 run by SHU that cut the RMU lead to just six points.
But it was Reed who would answer the call for Robert Morris. His conversion on an and-one opportunity at the 6:39 mark pushed the Colonials lead back to double-digits, and his team never looked back from there. A few key plays on both ends of the floor by freshman forward Andre Frederick, and an alley-oop by junior forward Aaron Tate capped-off the 85-65 win for RMU.
Reed paced all scorers with 24 points and tied a team-high with five assists. Jones recorded his second double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
After the game Pryor was asked who has his votes for Rookie of the Year, he responded, "Marcquise, hands down. He just does it all." The trio of Reed, Pryor, and Jones combined for 61 points - their highest combined total.
Head coach Andy Toole was satisfied with the win, and extremely complimentary of the contributions by Tate, "Aaron Tate is our most consistent human being and player in the locker room. That's why he plays so many minutes...he's going to make the best decision for the team."
Sacred Heart was led by Barnett's 21 points on 8-12 shooting. Senior point guard Phil Gaetano led all players with a game-high seven assists.