Playing together and for each other has become a consistent need for Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole. Robert Morris was successful in doing so the first 38 minutes but fell apart in the final moments.
The Colonials (2-14, 0-7 Horizon League) hosted a depleted Wright State team (9-7, 6-1) looking for their first conference win, but will have to wait another night once again to see a more favorable result.
The Raiders defeated RMU 75-73 to hand the Colonials their fifth-straight loss.
Wright State only had eight players taking part in pregame warmups with four players announced out of action only 25 minutes before tip-off due to COVID-19 protocols. Grant Basile, Tanner Holden, Keaton Norris, CJ Wilbourn, Andy Neff, Tim Finke, and TJ Nagy were the only Raiders to see the floor in the victory.
RMU started out hot leading 16-11 and a Kahliel Spear rejection sending action to the first media timeout of the night with just over 12 minutes in the first half.
Michael Green III and Kam Farris were major factors in RMU’s first-half success.
The Colonials narrowly led 18-16 before a timeout with 10:22 on the clock and relied on smart shot selections.
Brandon Stone struggled offensively near the basket but made an impact on the offensive glass. Two rebounds in a row later resulted in two Green III free throws.
Wright State tied it up on numerous occasions, but a Basile three gave the Raiders their first lead at 32-29. RMU scored on the next possession to pull within one and a Green III layup out of a timeout gave RMU the lead back.
The Raiders pressed on despite being out two projected starters and forced back-and-forth action on the scoreboard.
Spear scored twice late in the half before a Raiders’ bucket tied a relatively clean first 20 minutes at 37 with a combined seven turnovers.
Seven players saw action for Wright State in the first half. Holden and Finke were the most impactful contributors scoring 12 and 10 points, respectively. Basile also recorded eight points.
The visitors shot 53.6% from the floor and 4-8 from downtown to cap the first half and only controlled the lead for under five minutes.
Paramount for a change in the final result, the Colonials out-rebounded Wright State 16-12 and 5-2 on the offensive boards. Robert Morris also paced the contest in rebounds against Cleveland State and Purdue Fort Wayne, two losses decided on by a combined seven points.
RMU recorded an even field-goal percentage of 50% and 3-8 behind the arc. Farris and Green III entered the second half in double figures totaling 10 points apiece.
Nine Colonials hit the floor in a rapidly moving first half including Chase Cook, Justin Winston, and Jaron Williams off the bench.
A similar pace began the final 20 minutes and Wright State up by one at the under 16 timeout. The undermanned Raiders stepped up defensively and improved their rebounding efforts.
Two deep Hail Mary style passes resulting in layups sparked the Raiders offensive forward for their largest lead of the night entering the under 12 break.
Finke nailed a three to push the lead to seven but a Green III answer on the other end kept the Colonials within striking distance. Norris followed for the game’s third-straight made triple, and, if you expected a different result, was topped by a Farris three steps from halfcourt with the shot clock winding down.
Wright State took a 65-58 advantage into the under-eight break, but RMU forced its way back and tied it at 65 thanks to a 7-0 run finished off by a deep three from Farris.
Spear rocked the rim to ignite the UPMC Events Center and followed it up with a floater the next time down the floor to take a 71-67 advantage and four minutes remaining in the game.
The Colonials banked on the energy despite a small crowd, but turned it over on two-straight possessions before Farris and Stone reentered the game.
The Raiders cut the lead to one for RMU. Robert Morris forced a turnover and Toole called timeout to set up the offense in the final two minutes.
Foul trouble hurt the Colonials as Holden knocked down two free throws to grab a 72-71 advantage and Wright State would not look back.
RMU called time to talk about it following a Norris foul shot and 24.4 left in regulation. Spear could not grab a pass from Cheeks with a chance to tie it and fell out of bounds.
That was enough for Wright State to secure a 75-73 victory and hand the Colonials their fifth-straight defeat.
Basile paced all scorers with 23 points while Finke totaled 19 and Holden 18 to survive on the road. Wright State shot worse in the second half at 48% but still found a way to secure the necessary final two points to total a 51% clip. Basille, Norris, and Finke played every second for Wright State to improve to 9-7 and 6-1 in the Horizon League.
Farris totaled a team-high 20 points on 8-10 field goals and was a game-best +11 on the floor. Green III and Spear each recorded 15 points while Cheeks (11) was also in double figures. RMU shot virtually the same as Wright State (50.8%) overall and the exact same 37.5% mark from three-point land.
The game finished with 14 ties and 19 lead changes. RMU lost the battle of the boards 30-26, as well.
Robert Morris concludes its five-game homestand Saturday night hosting Northern Kentucky (6-8, 2-3) at 7 p.m.