This afternoon the Robert Morris Colonials hosted the Bryant Bulldogs in what was sure to be a sensational NEC tournament semifinal. Over the course of the regular season the Colonials and Bulldogs have seen each other twice, each game decided by six points or less but today would conclude differently.
In just the first five minutes junior guard Rodney Pryor gave the No. 2 seeded Colonials (18-14, 12-6) a five point lead and early momentum. Freshman forward Elijah Minnie, freshman guard Marcquise Reed, and junior forward Aaron Tate all contributed nine points, respectably, to give Robert Morris an early 14-3 lead. The No. 3 seeded Bulldogs (16-15, 12-6) barked back with seniors Joe 0’Shea and Dyami Starks leading the charge in finessing past the Colonial’s defense and driving through the paint.
With three minutes left to play in the first half and Robert Morris up by only three, 25-22, sophomore guard Kavon Stewart lifted the Colonials to a halftime score of 30-24. In the second half Stewart’s performance began to make Bryant’s defense adjust allowing players like senior Lucky Jones to turn loose and go on to score nine points in the second half after only having two in the first half. Stewart would go on to finish the game with 19 points, eight assists, seven steals and was a game changer for the Colonials.
Bryant’s Starks would keep his team in the game and would eventually tie the game up, 48-48, after a long range three pointer. With eight minutes left in the game Robert Morris’ Stewart and Jones started to hit shot after shot making it difficult for the Bryant to keep up. O’Shea fouled out with about five minutes left in the game; the Colonials defense shut down the floor and cemented the victory. Starks would go on to miss his last three shots and fall short of leading his team to an NEC title appearance.
In an interview this past Friday Robert Morris coach Andy Toole noted how physical and difficult it is to play against the Bulldog’s defense. While Robert Morris struggled early on offensively, due to Bryant’s pressure, the offensive surge was sparked by the Colonials tightening down Bryant’s post offense and creating turnovers.
Bryant struggled to get shots off and keep control of the ball because of a well-coached and prepared Colonial defense. Andy Toole will need to make sure that his men are prepared to play a defensive game on Tuesday.
The Colonials will face the No. 1 seeded St. Francis (NY) Terriers (23-10, 15-3), who defeated No. 5 seed St. Francis (PA) this afternoon, in Brooklyn, NY on Tuesday evening with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
(Photo Credit: Kyle Gorcey)