Revenge of the NEC.
The Robert Morris Colonials returned to the UPMC Events Center with fans in the stands for the first time since the 2020 NEC Championship Game 619 days ago on March 10, 2020.
A fellow NEC team had other plans.
RMU (0-4) hosted former NEC foe Mount St. Mary’s (3-1), and despite leading by 17 at one point, fell apart late in the second half falling 74-70.
A low-scoring first four minutes resulted in a 5-2 RMU advantage at the under-16 media timeout, with Spear the most noticeable Colonial on both ends.
Mount St. Mary’s struggled to find any offense throughout the first ten minutes of action,
A Rasheem Dunn wide-open three made it 12-2 forcing a Mountaineers’ timeout with 12:10 left in the first half.
Mount St. Mary’s struggled to find any offense throughout the first ten minutes of action but still kept the game within reach.
The Mountaineers began to come back inside 10 minutes as the Colonials became sloppy with less ball movement on the offensive end. A Nana Opoku three-point opportunity just before the under-eight timeout cut the lead to four at 16-12.
The Colonials responded in front of the home crowd, pushing the lead back to double digits, 25-14, as a timeout on the floor halted play with 3:32 on the clock.
RMU adjusted and the switch was flipped for Kahliel Spear, stepping up and being a physical and emotional presence on defense.
Jaron Williams knocked down a three to close out the first half with Robert Morris headed to the locker room up 13 points 35-22.
Spear shot a perfect 3-3 from the field and free-throw line for a team-high nine first-half points. The Colonials shot over 45% and 50% from three on six attempts. Rasheem Dunn, a St. John’s transfer, also scored nine early.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, registered only a 24.2% clip and only made one of seven three-point shots, also missing four of nine free-throw attempts.
Robert Morris continued playing a smarter style than games previously, taking care of the ball and making smart decisions. Toole’s team led 41-29 with under-16 minutes left in the game.
The game remained close throughout the remainder of the first 10 minutes, as RMU never pulled away. Opoku and Mezie Offurum kept the Mountaineers hanging around, as each team scored 10 points each before the next timeout and RMU up 51-39.
Things heated up as the Mount cut it to four as a Jalen Benjamin jumper was enough for Toole to converse with his squad leading 51-47. Mount St. Mary’s proceeded to tie it with just under eight minutes with a 12-0 run. A long-scoring drought by Robert Morris made what was a particularly uneventful game into a sudden nailbiter.
After missing the first, Offurum hit the second of two attempts at the line Mount St. Mary’s took the lead for the first time 52-51.
Despite a clean first 30 minutes, Robert Morris began to collapse offensively and fell out of sorts. Missed free throws and empty possessions also multiplied on the Mountaineers’ front.
An Enoch Cheeks three reignited the home crowd and 55-52, but the team’s continued to trade punches. RMU hung on to a 57-56 advantage with 3:40 remaining and fought their way back to a three-point lead under two minutes to go. Cheeks fouled a few possessions later, and RMU never found their offensive game to close it.
Dunn sank one of two foul shots after a strong defensive possession and came up with a steal as The Mount looked to tie. Dunn once again hit one of two, but the Mountaineers responded and hit a clutch three to send it to five minutes of overtime.
Neither team scored for the first two minutes, but Offurum and The Mount had other plans. The visitors played tough defense and found new life against their former rival.
Mount St. Mary’s hit important free throws and capitalized on RMU mistakes throughout overtime to claim a 74-70 victory.
Benjamin finished with a game-high 19 points, Offurum recorded 18 points as well.
RMU was led by Dunn’s 18 and a double-double from Spear with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Robert Morris finished shooting 26-64 (40.6%) from the field and 5-15 (33.3%) from downtown.
The Colonials were once again without Kam Farris and La Salle transfer Brandon Stone in the loss.
Robert Morris returns to action Saturday, November 27 at Davidson.