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Robert Morris Basketball

Robert Morris Moves to 2-1 in Conference Play, Defeats Purdue Fort Wayne 75-70

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Failing to adjust to a new slate of conference opponents plagued Robert Morris men’s basketball the past two seasons. The third year of a coaching career is generally identified as the most critical to foreshadow and portray future success. Andy Toole’s team has found a new identity in their third season of Horizon League competition. 

Robert Morris hosted preseason favorite Purdue Fort Wayne (9-5, 1-2) to jump-start Horizon League play Thursday night following a week off, but did not need to shake off any rust. 

The Colonials (7-7, 2-1 Horizon League) brought a commanding tempo from the opening tip and learned from failures in years past attempting to close out conference opponents in a 75-70 victory. RMU has won three in row and four of five home games overall. 

The night began raining threes as Enoch Cheeks and Jackson Last connected on triples for the game’s first six points before graduate forward Jarred Godfrey hit back-to-back long balls. 

The first five baskets of the night were all threes. Originally not announced in RMU’s starting lineup Twitter post, Kahliel Spear began in the Colonial starting five for Toole. Spear entered the game one point shy of 1,000, reaching the goal at the 4:10 mark by connecting on the first of two free throws. 

After a promising start and double-digit lead, Robert Morris allowed the Mastodons to create offensive opportunities inside the arc. The chances provided high-percentage looks and chances at the free-throw line. Godfrey led the charge and controlled the offensive attack. He capitalized on a three-point play with 8:36 remaining in the first half to grab the Mastodon’s first lead, 26-24. Stephaun Walker converted two free throws to tie at 26 entering the under-eight media timeout. 

It took Spear roughly 16 minutes to post his first points and take a weight off his shoulders before finding additional offensive success.

Purdue Fort Wayne re-grabbed the lead, 37-36, at the final timeout of the half, and both teams traded opportunities to possess the advantage. Both teams turned the ball over in the final 30 seconds and Jackson Last missed a transition layup, but an inbounds pass directly to Spear provided the final points of the first two minutes and a 40-37 Robert Morris lead at the break.

RMU shot 51.7% in the first half and 6-of-14 (42.9%) from downtown to cap a strong stretch of scoring. On the other hand, Purdue Fort Wayne made 12-of-27 (44.4%) and the same number of threes in two fewer attempts, shooting 6-of-12 (50%). They turned the ball over 10 times while winning the rebounding battle (16-14) and dominating RMU off the bench (22-8).

One reason why was a game-high 13 points from Quinton Morton-Robertson on 4-of-7 shooting and 3-of-5 from distance. Godfrey also scored in double figures at 11 points in part to two threes. 

Cheeks paced RMU with 11 points while Walker and Spear both totaled seven apiece. Walker also led the team with five rebounds. 

The defense tightened up in the second half. Last put up a prayer from three at the end of the shot clock less than five minutes into the second half and splashed it home to help maintain RMU’s advantage, 45-42, heading into the under-16 break. TJ Wainwright exploded out of the stoppage for the Colonials, connecting on a three and layup.

RMU began to pull away with a nine-point advantage and just over 10-and-a-half minutes remaining in regulation at 58-49 during the under-12 timeout. Bobby Planutis kept the Mastodons around, playing the most minutes of any PFW player and hovering around the three-point line. 

Godfrey, though, propelled Purdue Fort Wayne to a comeback. He connected on a shot off the glass and in, plus a foul, to convert a three-point play and cap a 10-2 run. Baskets traded hands like a seesaw on the UPMC Events Center floor playground. Cheeks connected on a triple before sending play into the final media timeout of regulation with exactly four minutes left and the Colonials ahead 66-63. 

One thing noticeably different from the past two RMU teams in conference play? Knowing how to keep a lead and seal the deal. Robert Morris did just that in the final two minutes. Michael Green III drove inside with 30 seconds left and connected on two critical free throws to close out the victory. 

Cheeks led all players with a career-high 24 points and six assists while chipping in five rebounds as eight Colonials found the bottom of the basket. Spear (10), Last (9), Corbin (8), Walker (7), and Green (7) all contributed to the victory. RMU shot 45.8% overall, 10-of-28 (35.7%) from three, and totaled 20 assists.

Purdue Fort Wayne shot 38.6% overall and 33.3% in the second half. Godfrey paced Purdue Fort Wayne with 20 points as four players reached double-figures. The Mastodons turned the ball over 16 times and RMU blocked six total shots. 

Robert Morris returns to the floor Saturday afternoon hosting Cleveland State at 3 p.m. before ringing in 2023.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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