With March Madness finally underway, fans of basketball and bracketology alike have already been treated to quite an opening act. A night after Ole Miss erased a 17-point deficit to come back and beat Brigham Young University, Dayton, Oh. would witness yet another thrilling game with the Robert Morris Colonials (19-14, 12-6) winning and advancing over North Florida Ospreys (21-11, 12-2), 81-77.
North Florida would start off with an early push, stealing the opening tip off from the Colonials and within two minutes found themselves in the lead 8-2. However, freshman forward Elijah Minnie would help his team recover in scoring six points bringing the Colonials even with the Ospreys at 8-8.
After some great ball movement and patience by Robert Morris it grabbed a seven-point lead, 19-12. The Colonials were able to get the Ospreys off their game by challenging them around the perimeter. However, this caused the Colonials to be out of position when it came to rebounding.
In the first half, the Ospreys out rebounded the Colonials 19-16 and were able to generate a lot of their offense through shooting behind the arc, which was no surprise. The Colonials on the other hand shot an abysmal 12.5 percent from three-point land. While the Colonials only made 12 out of their 33 attempted field goals, they were still within striking distance of the Ospreys at a halftime score of 35-29.
North Florida’s junior guard Beau Beech carried the Ospreys’ offense in the first half scoring five out of his seven attempted field goals and raining three 3-pointers to give him a total of 13 points at the half.
Robert Morris’ bright spot on offense at the half was junior guard Rodney Pryor, who was able to score eight points by the conclusion of the first half. They found bright spots in their ability to drive the lane; however, the first half did not treat the Colonials particularly well.
The Ospreys did not waste any time at the beginning of the second half, going up at one point 44-31. The Colonials had no answer for a North Florida offense that was draining threes from well behind the arc.
Robert Morris would keep fighting back with the help of freshman guard Marcquise Reed, Pryor, Minnie and Lucky Jones. The Colonials clawed back almost tying the game with 11 minutes left, 50-49.
After the Colonials seemed to make up some ground, Beech and the rest of the Ospreys continued to have a great night making shot after shot and contributed to the Ospreys climbing to and eventual 57-49 lead.
With the momentum constantly shifting from one team to the other Robert Morris found their first lead of the game since the 5:36 mark in the first half and would keep that lead all the way until the end.
The Ospreys, however, never gave up and eventually found themselves down by only two with 10 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately for them, their ability to shoot behind the arc was nowhere to be found and couldn’t seem to find any rhythm when they really needed it.
The Colonials’ Jones, Pryor and Reed all combined for 60 points, clearly being the game changers in lifting Robert Morris to the next round. Another huge contribution came from Minnie, who was able to scrape up 10 rebounds, some coming in crucial situations.
North Florida’s Beech did everything he could to help his team win, ending with 28 points. However, they would come up just short and lose to Robert Morris in this thrilling play-in game.
The Colonials will now advance and play the Duke Blue Devils this Friday in Charlotte, NC. The game will begin at 6:10 p.m. EST on CBS.