Championship caliber teams generally have a mental toughness about them. They're able to fight through adversity both during individual games and over the course of the season. On Saturday afternoon, that team was the Bryant Bulldogs.
The Robert Morris Colonials were coming off their fourth straight NEC victory, while Bryant was looking to recover from their second straight conference loss. In the early goings, both teams took turns trading baskets, as neither team was able to create more than a one possession advantage for the first 12 minutes of the half.
However, Robert Morris only made one field goal after the 9:19 mark, and just six total points, as the Bulldogs were able to create separation down the stretch. A layup by sophomore forward Dan Garvin, his 10th point of the half, helped give his team a 31-24 advantage at the break.
The Colonials connected on just 29% of their attempts; Bryant shot a more efficient 46% from the field. Both teams committed more turnovers than assists.
Garvin opened the half by powering his way to two quick layups, and helped his team slowly build it's way to a 10-point lead by the first media timeout. However, senior guard/forward Lucky Jones connected on back-to-back triples shortly after, and cut the deficit to four points.
Jones' energy and leadership on both ends of the floor helped RMU claw back into the game. But Bryant wasn't about to relinquish the lead and received some unexpected production in the form of freshman guard/forward Bosko Kostur. His five points in the last five minutes of the game helped his team maintain a two possession advantage until freshman guard Marcquise Reed took over the game for Robert Morris.
His 11 straight points, capped-off by a triple with just 1:10 remaining, brought his team within two points of the Bulldogs. It was then that Bryant turned to their two seniors to close things out: guard Dyami Starks made a key layup in transition and two clutch free throws, and forward Joe O'Shea calmly drained the last two points his team would need to secure the 71-68 victory in a game that lacked excitement until the last few minutes.
The Colonials were led by 20 points on 6-10 shooting by Reed. Jones finished with 19 points and a game-high five triples and eight rebounds.
Bulldogs head coach Tim O'Shea was highly complimentary of Reed after the game, "He's tremendous, he's unbelievable." He went on to say, "Forgot all-rookie, he might be All-Conference as a freshman."
Garvin led the Bulldogs with a game-high 21 points on a near perfect 9-10 from the field. Junior point guard Shane McLaughlin led all players with nine assists.
On how Garvin has progressed in his two years at Bryant, O'Shea said, "We feel he has a chance to be an all-conference player."
RMU head coach Andy Toole was blunt after the loss, "Sometimes you get what you deserve, and we didn't deserve to win the game today."
Robert Morris will try to bounce back at the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (8-12, 4-5) next Thursday. The Bulldogs won't have much time to celebrate the victory as they play against the Pittsburgh Panthers (14-8, 4-5) on Monday night.