Robert Morris Blows 12-Point Second Half Lead, Fall to Cleveland State in OT


Kahliel Spear lays it in in the overtime loss to Cleveland State Photo credit: Colby Sherwin

Ethan Morrison

CLEVELAND, OHIO — For the second straight season, Robert Morris and Cleveland State had a date at the Wolstein Center on the first Thursday in March with a spot to Indianapolis on the line in the 2023 Barbasol Horizon League Tournament.

With 12:50 to play in the second half, Robert Morris (16-17, 10-10 Horizon) had a 12-point lead after an Enoch Cheeks midrange jumper off of a turnover. However, after that basket by Enoch Cheeks, the Vikings began to chip down the lead to eventually tie the game with seven seconds to go and never looked back, winning 75-70.

Head coach Andy Toole reflected on an emotional game after Robert Morris fell for the second straight year in Cleveland.

“It hurts,” Toole said. “Our guys played incredibly hard and tough throughout the game and it comes down to just one or two plays that you have to be able to make and we were not able to make them.”

In the first half of play, the Colonials did a fairly good job at disrupting the flow of the game on the offensive side of the ball for Cleveland State, forcing seven turnovers. In the second half, the Vikings attacked the ball on the inside and figured out the Colonials’ interior defense which was the deciding factor in this one as they outscored RMU by 12 points in the paint in the final 25 minutes of game action.

Michael Green III had 14 points off the bench in the 75-70 overtime loss to Cleveland State (Photo by Colby Sherwin)

Toole credited Cleveland State’s game plan of getting the ball down low and converting.

“They just attack the paint and that’s just what they do,” Toole said. “They will bully you in the lane they have a couple of guys that can make threes and we let their three bounce guys make threes including [Drew] Lowder’s three which was a huge one late in the game to cut the game to four which was just a scouting report breakdown. But they just try to attack and get down to the glass and they will post you with [Tristan] Enaruna and play from 15 feet and in and they’re really good at it and that’s why they have won so many games this season.”

The aforementioned Lowder three-point field goal was a turning point in this game for the Vikings and the Colonials were struggling to make a field goal in the last 3:24 in regulation.

Poor execution was one aspect that Toole pointed to in postgame after the Robert Morris struggled from the field in the waning minutes of the game.

“It was just lack of execution on both sides,” Toole said. “You have to be able to understand scouting report situations and you have to be able to do it in the biggest moments of the game and we were not able to do it. We came out of a timeout and had something drawn up and did not execute it properly as we drew it up in the timeout and that stalled us and hurt us and we came up with a poor possession. We had all of our chances and we have to try to be better in those moments.”

Stephaun Walker paced the Colonials this evening with 15 points in the losing effort and notched his eighth double-figure scoring performance of the season.

Toole spoke on the Freshman forward’s game and season after being a mainstay in the starting lineup throughout the 2022-23 season.

“It is just amazing that he wasn’t on the [Horizon League] All-Rookie Team. He started virtually every game for us and had numerous double-doubles six-point and six-rebound average and he just needs to continue to get better and continue to grow but had an outstanding freshman season.”

The loss marked the end of the road for graduate forward Kahliel Spear as he finished his final game posting eight points and eight rebounds. The opportunity was one aspect that Spear mentioned that he can take away from his time as a Colonial.

“The program did a lot for me coming out of my first school [Bucknell,]” Spear said. “I am grateful for the opportunity and the coaching staff and the Colonial fans for giving me a chance because you supported me when I first came here. When I got here, I was not the most eye-popping guy out there but you [the fans] supported me and I really appreciate that.”

Robert Morris ends the season one game below .500 after the loss to Cleveland State tonight, finishing with a 16-17 overall record and a 10-11 overall record in Horizon League action. This season for the Colonials was the most successful season in the Horizon League, but this is a tough pill to swallow for Andy Toole and company as they end their season for the second straight season in Cleveland.