Colonials knock-off Monmouth 87-68, advance to NEC quarterfinals

By Nick Buzzelli, Asst. Sports Editor

It was only the first day of March, but for the Robert Morris men’s basketball team the madness has already begun.

The Colonials improved to 32-20 all time in the Northeast Conference (NEC) playoffs and won its seventh consecutive game against Monmouth with a dominating 87-68 trouncing of the Hawks Thursday night during the first round of NEC post-season play at the Charles L. Sewall Center.

According to redshirt junior Velton Jones, the playoff atmosphere and large crowd helped to propel the Colonials to victory.

“It was a great crowd. They helped us out a lot this game and gave us a lot of energy,” stated the 6-0 guard. “It was a good thing to see that our fans came out to support us and it was a good thing that we played well for them.”

Coron Williams knocked down all eight of his field goals from beyond the arc and totaled a game-high 25 points, while Anthony Myers and Velton Jones each netted 12 points en route to the Colonials’ first post-season and 23rd overall victory of the 2011-2012 campaign.

Robert Morris began the contest on an 11-6 run and eventually built an eight point advantage with 5:30 left in the half, but Monmouth battled back and came within one point late in the frame.

“There was concern in the first half because we were playing with foul trouble, so we had to maintain our focus and continue to defend and try and make some stops,” stated RMU head coach Andy Toole.

Forward Lucky Jones quickly responded however, scoring 11 points in the final 2:38 of the opening frame to give the Colonials its biggest lead of the half and an eight point lead heading into the locker room.

Although Lucky Jones was playing in the first post-season contest of his college career, the freshman performed like a seasoned veteran, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds off the bench for the Colonials.

“I was quite nervous the whole week because I had never experience anything like this before, but I just kept listening to my teammates and came ready to play tonight,” Lucky Jones said.

Despite the fact that Monmouth registered 14 points in the first six minutes of the second half, the comeback was too little too late. Anthony Myers and Coron Williams’ back-to- back threes rattled in to give Robert Morris a 12 point advantage late in the contest, but the Colonials offensive production did not stop there. RMU scored 10 points in the game’s final four minutes to seal the victory.

“I tip my hat off to Andy and his whole staff. I don’t like being 0-3 against anybody, but if I have to be 0-3 against anyone to start off, those guys are good guys,” Monmouth head coach King Rice said after his teams’ final game of the season. “They run a great program and I hoping to catch them.”

Despite missing the majority of practice early in the week due to fatigue, Williams put up some of his best offensive numbers this year against the Hawks.

“We didn’t let [Coron] practice this week until Wednesday. Looking at him last weekend, I thought that he was beat down a little bit, both physically and mentally.” explained Toole. “We gave him Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off and obviously it worked out.”

With the 19 point triumph over MU, Robert Morris secures a spot in the NEC semifinals for the fifth consecutive season and will take on Wagner on Sunday in Staten Island, New York.

According to Toole, it will be difficult to face Wagner again after RMU’s 11 point loss to the Seahawks earlier this season, but the Colonials’ skipper is hopeful that his team will be ready to play the second time around.

“Obviously we know it’s going to be an intense, difficult, hard-fought game,” added the second year head coach. “I don’t think our guys feel that they played their best the last time we were there, and maybe we didn’t prepare them for the defensive intensity they were going to face, but we’ll get to work figuring out what we have to do better [this time].”