Colonials advance to NEC title game

Robert Morris 71, Wagner 64
March 5, 2012 12:00 am

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- With a little more than 30 seconds to go and Robert Morris leading by three, Velton Jones dribbled the ball behind the 3-point line on the right wing.

He faked a shot, got his defender in the air and drew the foul and three free throws.

"Finish these free throws and we have a chance to finish out the game," is what Jones recalled ran through his mind.

"That's all I was thinking. ... Just be composed, not worry about the crowd and knock them down."

Jones made all three, and in doing so secured a fourth consecutive trip to the Northeast Conference championship game for Robert Morris. The Colonials defeated Wagner, 71-64, Sunday afternoon behind 25 points from Jones, including 15 in the second half.

They will play at Long Island (24-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the NEC title game with a spot in the NCAA tournament on the line. The Blackbirds defeated Quinnipiac, 78-75, in the other semifinal Sunday.

Last year, Long Island beat Robert Morris in overtime in the championship game.

Robert Morris had an 11-1 run to start the second half. That outburst turned a 31-29 deficit into a 40-32 lead. The Colonials never trailed from that point and the closest Wagner came was when Tyler Murray made a 3-pointer with a minute left to cut the lead to 65-62. On the next possession, Jones made his three free throws.

"Obviously very proud of our guys and the effort they gave," Colonials coach Andy Toole said. "We talked to them all week that the tougher team, or the team with the most will, would win that game."

The Colonials dominated Wagner on the glass, outrebounding the Seahawks, 45-30. Robert Morris grabbed 21 offensive rebounds compared to just 17 defensive boards for Wagner.

Russell Johnson and Lucky Jones had nine rebounds apiece, and Lijah Thompson grabbed eight more. The margin was probably more remarkable considering six Colonials, including every forward except Johnson, finished the game with four fouls.

First Published 2012-03-04 23:10:49

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