Despite having virtually no chance of making the NEC Tournament, it was the Central Connecticut Blue Devils that competed as if they had something to play for during the first 30 minutes of the contest. But their inability to put together a complete performance allowed the Robert Morris Colonials to secure the victory, despite not leading at any point in the second half until a tip-in by junior forward Aaron Tate gave them a one-point victory.
Five combined turnovers contributed to a slow start for both teams. Robert Morris led 5-2 at the first media timeout. Central Connecticut rode three makes from the beyond the arc by sophomore guard Matt Mobley to tie the game at 13 going into the second media timeout.
For the remainder of the half, neither team was able to create any separation. A break-away dunk by freshman guard Marcquise Reed gave the Colonials a late one-point lead. But Mobley's sixth basket of the half, not only gave him his 15th point, but also sent his team into the half with a 30-27 lead.
Blue Devils head coach Howie Dickenman wasn't surprised by his team's strong start, "We're a good first half team." He went on to list several conference games in which his team led in the first half.
On the other side of the coin, RMU head coach Andy Toole didn't feel his team came out with enough energy at the start. When asked if he was surprised his team lacked energy after coming off a loss to the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds on Thursday, Toole responded, "I'd like to say no, but we have an odd personality."
Toole's team continued to lack energy early in the second half. Mobley's fifth three-pointer of the game at the 13:20 mark gave CCSU their largest lead of the game at 11. Robert Morris turned to Reed and junior guard Rodney Pryor to get them back into the game.
Reed scored the Colonials next eight points, and Pryor followed suit by scoring the following five. His jumper at the 6:18 mark brought RMU within two points of Central Connecticut, 48-46. Robert Morris wasn't just getting it done on the offensive end. They began pressing the Blue Devils and it stifled an offense that was already leaning heavily on one player - Mobley.
The Colonials held CCSU scoreless for the last 3:21 of play, but were still a basket short of winning the game with just under six seconds remaining. Reed was able to get into the lane for a right-handed floater, but the ball rimmed out. But Tate played the role of hero; he managed to tip the ball, which swirled around the rim before falling through after time had expired, and gave RMU the 53-52 victory.
Mobley had a game-high 23 points on 9-18 from the field and 5-10 from beyond the arc. Junior forward Brandon Peel grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with eight points.
Reed led his team with 18 points on 8-18 from the field; he also had a game-high four steals. Pryor chipped in 13 points and had a team-high three makes from beyond the arc.
Dickenman was proud of his team's effort, but felt they let one slip through their fingers, "The difference in the game was one rebound at the end." He still credited Robert Morris for their late push, "You have to give credit to Robert Morris. They kept fighting and fighting."
Toole recognized how fortunate his team was to steal a win, "We probably didn't deserve to win the game...fortunately enough we caught a break."
On Reed's performance, Dickenman was very complimentary, "Is he a senior? He plays like one." He went on to say, "I wouldn't be surprised if he made first-team. He's one of the top half-dozen players in the league."
The Colonials will face the Sacred Heart Pioneers (12-14, 6-7) on the road next Thursday. Central Connecticut will return home to play the St. Francis University Red Flash (14-11, 8-6) on Thursday.