Lights continue to fill the streets and homes as Christmas rapidly approaches. Robert Morris men’s basketball concluded a seven-game road trip Wednesday night in Mount Pleasant, Michigan facing the Central Michigan Chippewas.
Different colored lights are seen throughout the Christmas season. For Central Michigan in particular, the Chippewas were seeing red rather than the green light.
Robert Morris (4-6) depended on its emerging defensive presence and forced Central Michigan (4-5) into a 32.3% clip from the field. RMU performed well enough offensively to win 71-66 despite a whopping 19 turnovers.
RMU and CMU combined to make 3-of-14 shots in the first five minutes and foreshadowed the shooting woes to come.
Both teams scored only eight points each through the first 10 minutes of play before stepping up the offense.
The Colonials entered as 1.5-point underdogs and found their stroke in the final five minutes and change, shifting their shooting percentage from the mid-30% range to 41.9% at halftime.
RMU depended on the three-point shot once again to power the offense to a 32-25 halftime advantage.
Hitting 5-of-10 (50%) shot attempts, the Colonials relied on Josh Corbin’s ability to create instant offense with three triples. All of Corbin’s first-half shots were from behind the arc, totaling nine.
Enoch Cheeks led the team through 20 minutes scoring 10 on 4-of-8 shooting. His point total may not tell a proper tale of how well Kahliel Spear played in the first half. The graduate big man grabbed 10 of RMU’s 24 rebounds as the team recorded more boards than the Chippewas in a 25-17 differential.
Central Michigan shot poorly, making 7-of-25 (28%) field goals while completing 3-of-8 (37.5%) three-point attempts. CMU turned the ball over 11 times, compared to nine for Robert Morris, but recorded four blocks of Colonial shots.
Jesse Zarzuela paced the home team scoring 12 points as the main offensive catalyst. The next closest scored was Markus Harding registering five. Zarzuela entered the night averaging 15.2 points per game and smashed that total in the second half.
RMU kept the momentum flowing through the entire second half. The Colonials defense made a major impact in the team’s first two Horizon League games – defeating Wright State but losing to Northern Kentucky by four – which continued immensely Wednesday.
The Chippewas chipped away at RMU’s lead on several occasions. The Colonials clinged to a six-point advantage, 65-59, with 70 seconds remaining.
Andy Toole’s team maintained a six to 10-point lead for most of the second half and never allowed Central Michigan to truly knock on the door.
Robert Morris continued its less than ideal performances from the free-throw line, making 11-of-18 (61.1%).
The Colonials finished shooting 46.4% and making 8-of-18 (44.4%) three pointers. The team out-rebounded CMU 43-35 and blew the Chippewas out of the water totaling an assist ratio of 18-5.
The RMU big three guided RMU throughout the night. Corbin led RMU recording 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 6-of-11 triples. Spear registered another double-double totaling 18 points and 15 rebounds along with seven assists. Cheeks added 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Matt Mayers also scored six off the bench.
Central Michigan committed 15 turnovers and tied RMU in fouls (20). Zarzuela finished with 25 points including seven at the line. Harding added 13 off the bench and Reggie Bass was the only other team member in double digits, scoring 10 despite shooting 3-of-15 from the floor.
Robert Morris returns home to the UPMC Events Center Saturday at 7 p.m. against Marshall.