The 2021-22 season has been anything but kind to the Robert Morris Colonials, but tonight was different.
The Colonials mixed all the right ingredients necessary to complete an overall team effort on the right side of the score sheet.
RMU began the night 0-7 against Horizon League opponents but turned the tide Saturday night facing Northern Kentucky.
The Colonials (3-14, 1-7 Horizon League) took down the Norse (6-9, 2-4) to record their first conference victory of the 2021-22 season back by a spectacular performance from Kahliel Spear.
NKU was scoreless in the first two minutes and called timeout with only 2:29 off the clock trailing 6-2. The Norse made four substitutions out of the break and continued their sluggish start on offense.
A Spear dunk pushed the game into its first media timeout at the 15:51 mark and the Colonials off to a fast start.
RMU subbed Brandon Stone, Justin Winston, Chase Cook, and Jaron Williams as the clock neared 15 minutes as both teams emptied their bench early.
Kam Farris picked up an early second foul six and a half minutes into the game, limiting RMU’s scoring abilities down its best shooter.
RMU contained an 11-7 lead at the under-12 timeout as NKU began to show life on offense but still struggled.
The Colonials continued to push the envelope resulting in another Norse timeout with 9:20 in the first half and RMU leading 17-8.
Spear tortured NKU inside the paint pacing all scorers at the under-eight break with eight points. Robert Morris led 19-11 but the advantage felt larger than the score indicated. The Norse reached the timeout shooting under 29% and 1-5 from three.
Farris returned from the bench to knock down a triple and minutes later made a fantastic pass inside to Spear who finished the layup and tacked on a free throw to complete the three-point play.
NKU began to chip away, cutting the lead to six at the under-four media timeout 29-23. RMU played well defensively but NKU hit open shots when available.
Both teams took turns exchanging baskets the final four minutes resulting in a 35-28 RMU advantage after 20 minutes.
Spear paced all scorers with 13 points. Green III, Mayers, and Cheeks all were second totaling four points apiece.
Robert Morris shot an impressive 59% from the field including 2-5 from downtown and 7-7 from the charity stripe. RMU also slightly outrebounded NKU 13-12 but on the negative end 6-3 on the offensive glass.
Northern Kentucky shot under 42% and missed three free throws while never leading throughout the first 20 minutes. Marques Warrick and Trey Robinson each totaled six points to lead the Norse as seven players scored in the first half. Trevon Faulkner, averaging 16.7 points-per-game entering the night, played only eight minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and was held off the scoresheet.
Kam Farris brought the UPMC Events Center to life with a three-point play thanks to a strong finish near the basket.
Officials went to the monitor to look for a potential flagrant foul on Spear with 16:58 in the game and RMU up 42-36. Ruled a common foul, RMU called time on its next possession after NKU scored again.
Two more timeouts spanned the next minute of game time as the game became closer. RMU lead by only four with 15:41 left in regulation.
RMU proceeded to call another timeout, now with one left, due to Green III failing to find a receiver to inbound the ball to. Green III proceeded to make the next two baskets and leave NKU searching for answers after a turnover on the other end.
Brandon Stone and Trevon Faulkner picked up offsetting technical fouls nearing the 12-minute mark for Stone’s second personal and Faulkner’s fourth. Faulkner only attempted two shots in 11 minutes when he recorded the foul. RMU still possessed a four-point lead 48-44 but NKU still threatened.
Both teams traded makes and Green III especially played well halfway through the half. NKU would not go away and answered every surge the Colonials brought to the table.
Winston found Spear on a strong cut to the basket for the last points before the under-eight timeout and RMU still winning 59-52.
The bounces were going the Colonials way and Spear threw down a spectacular dunk past two defenders to put the UPMC Events Center into a frenzy. It was necessary energy RMU needed to finish the job up 63-56 with six minutes left.
It took a little over five minutes left in the game until Faulkner recorded his first bucket, only registering four points overall, but his thunder was stolen by RMU’s offensive rebounding on the other end resulting in one of two free throws for Williams.
The Norse cut it to three at 64-61 before two Spear foul shots on a one-and-one opportunity. At the under-four timeout, RMU still controlled a five-point cushion prior to two more made free throws from Green III.
Spear blocked Faulkner at the basket resulting in another missed opportunity for the Norse with two minutes to go in by far one of RMU’s most exciting games of the season.
The Norse failed to successfully trap Farris and a second pass to Williams down low was enough to say goodnight to NKU as RMU finally recorded its first Horizon League victory.
Spear recorded a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds, five on the offensive glass, in what he called his best collegiate performance. Spear’s entire family, including his younger sister Jewel who’s a member of the Wake Forest women’s team, was in attendance for his impressive night.
Green III (14) and Farris (13) also scored in double figures and combined for a perfect 7-7 from the foul line as RMU banked on a strong night at the line making 17 of 18 attempts.
Northern Kentucky never led the entirety of the game. Warrick also totaled 21 points in the game and was joined only by Adrian Nelson (11) off the bench in double-digit points.
RMU won the turnover battle 18-10, points in the paint 44-30, and total rebounds 34-32.
Robert Morris begins a two-game road trip Friday against Purdue Fort Wayne beginning at 7 p.m.