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2015 NCAA Tournament Recap: Robert Morris Colonials Defeat North Florida Ospreys, 81-77

The Robert Morris Colonials (20-14, 12-6) earned to the right to play the Duke Blue Devils (29-4, 15-3) on Friday with their 81-77 victory over the North Florida Ospreys (23-12, 12-2) in Dayton, OH on Wednesday night.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It's impossible to quantify something like poise, yet it's undeniably an important characteristic of any team that is looking to extend their season at this time of year.

In the early going, it looked like the Robert Morris Colonials were the team who had it.  Down 8-2 through the first two minutes of play, freshman forward Elijah Minnie canned a three-pointer followed by three points the old-fashioned way to tie the game at eight.

On the other end, the North Florida Ospreys turned the ball over eight times going into the under-12 media timeout, which saw Robert Morris hold a 17-12 lead.  Despite two fouls, junior guard/forward Beau Beech grabbed the poise banner for his team.  His seven points over the span of two minutes brought the Ospreys within two of the Colonials right after the under-8 media timeout, 23-21.

Beech's play helped ignite a 14-6 run by UNF that saw five different players score.  North Florida also didn't turn the ball over during the last 8:41 of play which helped them to take a 35-29 lead into the half.

While his team had faced players similiar to sophomore guard Dallas Moore, head coach Andy Toole knew Beech would present a different challenge, "What we tried to do was kind of give our guys an NEC comparison...Beau Beech was a guy that we labeled as a 6'8" Dyami Starks.  And with his high release, he's always hunting shots."

The Ospreys and Beech continued their scoring ways to start the second half.  A 9-2 run to start the half, which included back-to-back triples by Beech, opened up an 13-point lead for UNF, 44-31, their largest of the night.  Again, RMU demonstrated the kind of poise it takes to win in March.  A layup by Minnie started a 14-1 run that ended with a bucket plus the foul by freshman guard Marquise Reed that brought their team within one.

But, North Florida wasted no time jumping back out to an eight-point lead on the back of Beech.  But the poise of senior guard/forward Lucky Jones would again bring Robert Morris within one of the Ospreys on a three-pointer at the 8:27 mark.  A jumper by Jones coming out of the under-8 media timeout gave the Colonials a one-point lead and they would never trail again.

"I wasn't really feeling that lucky.  But I just felt the game swing into our hands.  The basketball game is full of runs, and I think we just took our time, felt them getting on their heels.  We had to take it stop by stop and get the best shot for our team, " was how Jones described what allowed his team to finally take the lead.

UNF played the foul game late, but RMU made six of nine free throws down the stretch which was just enough to emerge with a 81-77 victory.

For North Florida it was a game of self-inflicted wounds.  Head coach Matthew Driscoll felt that what hurt his team the most, "Our turnovers were self-inflicted at some points, and when you self-inflict and you allow them to get out and run, it's very, very difficult to stop and get, to get those key stops that you need."

Robert Morris was led by 21 points from Jones on 6-11 from the floor.  Junior guard Rodney Pryor netted 20 points on 8-17 shooting, while Reed added 19 points.  Minnie recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Ospreys were led by Beech and his game-high 28 points on 9-14 from the floor including 6-10 from three-point distance.  Fellow First-Team All-Atlantic Sun teammate, sophomore guard Dallas Moore, scored 13 points but on 4-15 shooting.

The Colonials will play the Duke Blue Devils in Charlotte, NC on Friday in a 1 vs. 16 matchup.