Robert Morris began Horizon League play Thursday looking to snap a four-game losing streak to begin 2022-23 against a team projected to finish third in the conference.
Known for being a staple at the top of the conference, Wright State hosted a Colonials team that entered the year ranked No. 8 in the HLMBB Preseason Poll. If you flipped the league projections the opposite way, no one would have noticed the difference.
RMU (3-5, 1-0 Horizon League) shot the lights out on the road in an 80-59 victory to pound Wright State (5-3, 0-1) and send a major statement to the rest of the conference.
The start did not look as promising as the finish with the Raiders scoring the game’s first seven points three minutes into the night.
Josh Corbin drained a three to put Robert Morris on the board, sporting its all-grey uniforms. Corbin entered the night connecting on 24-for-42 (52.2%) three-point attempts following an 0-for-6 effort in the season opener.
Enoch Cheeks returned from a two-game absence but missed his first four shots. The junior guard entered conference play averaging 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and shooting 52.5% from the floor. A Kahliel Spear layup capped a 6-0 run that tied the game at 12 apiece.
The Raiders grabbed the lead back and extended it to 17-13 at the under-12 media timeout. Early foul trouble plagued RMU, totaling five team fouls eight minutes into the first half spread out between five RMU players.
RMU grabbed its first lead, 20-19, just under 10 minutes into the game and relied on early baskets scored by Corbin. Wright State regained the advantage at 23-22 entering the under-eight media break.
Both teams traded blows as the lead switched hands on numerous occasions entering the first half’s final minutes. Corbin displayed a solid stroke from behind the arc, hitting 3-of-4. The Raiders took care of the ball early but began turning it over and transitioning into RMU points. Spear capitalized and guided the RMU offensive throughout play including an off-balance three with the shot-lock expiring to take a 41-36 lead. He beat the buzzer again to close the half and take a 44-36 score into the break.
Playing one of its best halves of the year and impressing against the team projected to finish third in the Horizon League, Robert Morris totaled a 17-for-31 (54.8%) clip from the field. Andy Toole’s team attempted 11 three-pointers and made seven of them (63.6%), a major factor in being up by eight.
Spear held his own against Wright State and couldn’t miss from the floor. The graduate student played an aggressive style to the tune of 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting and three rebounds. Corbin totaled three triples while Cheeks settled in to record six points, four assists, and three rebounds.
Each team turned the ball over five times while RMU also committed nine fouls. The Colonials won the battle on the board 15-11 and established a physical presence inside the paint. Wright State made 13-of-30 (43.3%) baskets and 4-of-8 (50%) three-point shots. Tim Finke registered a 4-of-4 night to score 11 first-half points and pace the Raiders.
Senior guard Trey Calvin entered action averaging over 19 points and six assists per game. The Colonials shut Calvin down to the tune of eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
RMU dominated the second half.
Two free throws from Kevin Martina handed Wright State its greatest deficit of the season at 10 points. Corbin followed the two points up with three of his own on the next possession (49-36).
A Matt Mayers layup extended the lead to 19 points at 59-40. The score from the Nutter Center remained the same entering the under-12 timeout. Ahead by a large margin, it was important for Robert Morris to not become comfortable and complacent with basketball. The Colonials never let up.
RMU moved the ball impeccably well thanks to Corbin, Cheeks, and Spear. The team displayed impressive passes including multiple ‘wow’ type plays.
Wright State came into the game No. 165 by Ken Pom while Robert Morris lagged behind at No. 306. The Colonials were out to prove something to the Horizon League and have begun the process of garnering more respect in their third year in the conference.
Robert Morris snapped a six-game skid against the Raiders and marked the first time the Colonials defeated them in conference play. The Colonials played their best game of the year facing solid competition in large part to shooting 52.5% overall and 52.9% from three.
Toole’s team played solid defensively forcing 12 turnovers and a 41.5% shooting mark. RMU only turned the ball over twice in the second half. RMU overcame 18 fouls as four players scored in double figures.
Spear led all players with 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting and three blocks. Corbin (15 points), Cheeks (12), and Michael Green III (11) all contributed to the offensive output in a major way. Cheeks added six assists and five rebounds while Corbin registered eight boards and three steals.
Green recorded four assists. Jackson Last played one of his best games in a Colonials uniform scoring five points and grabbing seven rebounds. RMU out-rebounded Wright State 33-23 and 11-4 in steals. The 21-point margin of victory was the largest of the game.
Finke capitalized on seven of his nine shots for a team-high 18 Wright State points along with two steals. Calvin never found his footing and totaled 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting and five turnovers.
Robert Morris continues conference play Saturday night at Northern Kentucky. The game begins at 6 p.m. on ESPN+.