Colonials Dominate on Glass in Win Over Milwaukee


Kahliel Spear had 14 points in the 80-60 Senior Day win over Milwaukee Photo credit: Cam Wickline

Evan Basista

MOON TOWNSHIP– On a night featuring members of the 2013 team that upset Kentucky, the Colonials men’s basketball team recorded an impressive showing of their own against the higher-ranked Milwaukee Panthers, winning by a score of 80-60.

RMU entered the game on a two-game win streak, with a 13-15 record overall and an 8-9 record in Horizon League play. The last time they faced off on January 19, Milwaukee defeated RMU 77-69, but as graduate student forward Kahliel Spear pointed out, “the lead at the end of the game was larger than what the game shows.”

Tonight was also a night honoring Spear and senior guard Michael Green III, as a pregame ceremony featured their families.

“It felt amazing,” said Green. “The crowd was into it. We had our families here. It was an amazing experience.”

“I can’t say just how great it was,” Spear said. “The energy from the tipoff was great. The fans came out and showed a lot of love today, which was big for us. Having senior night, you always want it to be something special. You always want to come out and win, but it feels good knowing that you have the support there too. That felt really good.”

The game itself was somewhat of a roller coaster early on. After a 14-8 lead for the Colonials, the Panthers scored eleven unanswered points. However, RMU rebounded and got a 32-21 lead at one point, eventually entering halftime up 42-31. Kahliel Spear led with thirteen points as part of a balanced offensive attack showcased by strong 3-point play.

Entering the second half, the Colonials continued to land three-pointers.

“I feel like it just flowed for us,” Green said. “We all just got open looks, and we were able to make shots today. 12 for 27, that’s a great percentage. Can’t ask for anything more.”

As the half went on, Milwaukee began to press more on defense as part of a full-court effort Coach Andy Toole said he expected to see. However, this didn’t phase RMU, as they pulled away in the second half thanks to solid defense and decision-making.

“I thought that, other than maybe one little stretch in the second half, we did a really good job of picking when we should attack or shoot early in the shot clock versus getting it out and staying organized,” Toole said. “I thought our guys did a really good job of being poised against a good, aggressive defense … Our perimeter guys really helped control and make good decisions when to attack and when not to.”

Jackson Last had a team-high 16 points in the 80-60 win over the Panthers Photo credit: Cam Wickline

“That’s obviously got to be our calling card. I thought the consistency of energy on the ball was really helpful for us tonight to try and limit their ability to create an advantage. I thought our guys really rallied all night long. The defense led us to victory.”

Five Colonials ended with double digits in points, including 15 from Kahliel Spear.

“Something was flowing through our team today,” said Spear. “We played a lot of good team ball. We finished with seventeen assists. That’s big-time. We turned it over more than we’d hoped, but we were sharing the ball and playing as a unit.”

The game’s real story, however, was RMU’s dominance on the glass, as they outrebounded Milwaukee 45-23.

“We were all locked in on our assignments,” Spear said. “There were a couple of plays where my guy crashed on me, but my teammates picked my back up. It was a team effort on all levels . . . We had four or five people with five rebounds. That’s major. If we can do that every game, we’re going to dominate. We got a lot of offensive rebounds too. Sixteen of them, that’s crazy. I’m pretty sure after seeing this that that’s going to be a point of emphasis that coach pushes. We just showed ourselves what we can do on the glass against a top team in the conference.”

Spear and Green spoke on the resiliency shown as the team recorded their third win in a row.

“We’re tough-minded,” said Green. “Whether we win or lose, no matter what happens the next game. We’re going to come in and bring the same effort and energy. We know that our formula works. We’ve seen that, not just tonight but other nights as well.”

With Youngstown State up next on their schedule, the team knows what’s at stake over the last two games before the tournament.

“This is the best record we’ve had in the Horizon League yet, and we can make a run for it,” Green said. “We can get a bye. We’ve gotta keep up the momentum and keep pushing.”

Toole added, “We’ve got to just worry about getting ready for Tuesday and keep our focus as small as humanly possible. At the end, maybe we can look back and say what this meant, but right now with two games left in the regular season, we are fighting as hard as we can to play good basketball. Tonight was obviously a good example of that. We’ve got to be able to get ready for Tuesday.”

The Colonials will play the Penguins Tuesday at 7 pm at the UPMC Events Center in the last home game for the season.