March Madness returns to Moon Township tonight as the Robert Morris Colonials host the Saint Francis (New York) Terriers in the quarterfinals of the Northeast Conference Tournament.
This is the third contest between the fourth-seeded Colonials and the fifth-seeded Terriers this season. The Colonials won both games 52-49 in Brooklyn and 67-62 at home two weeks ago.
Robert Morris is hoping to recapture some mojo after a February that only netted them three wins. In fact, since a late January win against Wagner, the Colonials are just 4-6 in conference play.
Meanwhile, the February slump dropped them from the conference lead all the way to fourth place.
3 Keys to a Colonial Victory
It’s no secret that the Colonials success and their failures have hinged on the defensive side of the floor this season. In their first eight NEC games, the Colonials were the stingiest defense in the conference.
Robert Morris allowed the opposition just over 62 points per game. In their 11 NEC wins, the Colonials held their foes to 59 points per game. Conversely, in seven losses the Colonials have surrendered a staggering 80.7 points per game.
Head coach Andy Toole has harped on dictating pace and tempo, as he stated after an early season conference loss to Long Island from Robert Morris’ official website.
“We’re better at 52-49 than we are at 80-73,” Toole said. “We never were able to play Robert Morris basketball.”
The edict and the formula has been made crystal clear over a 30-game season that a great defense can carry the Colonials to a win tonight and ultimately a NEC championship.
Shall we start with the captain? For Matty McConnell this may well be his final home game in front of the Colonial Crazies.
Unquestionably the heart and soul of this squad the young man from Chartiers Valley High School has posted over 1,000 points and 200 steals.
Vital to the success of the Colonials, Robert Morris is 7-4 when McConnell puts up 10 or more points. In contrast, the Colonials are just 3-4 when he posts single digits. The man known as “Big Ticket” can be the ticket for a Colonials win tonight.
Meanwhile, Josh Williams has made a splash for Robert Morris coming in as a transfer from Akron. Williams leads the Colonials in scoring with 13.9 points per contest.
He is also a legitimate threat from beyond the arc, nailing 39.2 percent of his three-point shots. His 91 three-pointers and consistent play this season earned Williams a spot on the All-NEC’s Third Team this season. Getting Williams started from distance early could spell trouble for the Terriers tonight.
As for Malik Petteway, he’s an all-around play has been a revelation for the Colonials this year.
Averaging 10 points and five rebounds a contest, the versatility of the Petteway can give the Terriers headaches all night.
Patrolling the paint with 32 blocks, he does not take a possession off. Truly, a trusted spark plug off the bench for Coach Toole.
Robert Morris lives for big basketball games in March. From personal experience, the atmosphere at tip-off will be electric tonight. The team feeding off the crowd has produced some magical March moments in the past.
Don’t believe me? Ask Kentucky.
This current team posted a record of 11-3 at home this season. This crowd can play the role and be a sixth man. The Colonial faithful will be a major weapon.
Know Your Enemy
Jalen Jordan: He averaged 15.3 points per game in his sophomore campaign. Jordan led the Terriers in scoring in both contests against the Colonials this season, posting 18 and 16 points in each game.
Glenn Sanabria: Call him the McConnell of the Terriers squad. The fifth year guard has posted 25 points and nine rebounds in the two tilts against Robert Morris. Meanwhile, he collected four steals in the second contest.
Expect energy from the home crowd and players alike.
This game will be a back and forth, close, gritty affair tonight where premium chances will be hard to come by. When the calendar turns to March guard play turnovers and foul shooting usually tips the scales.
Expect the experienced backcourt of the Colonials to shine down the stretch.
My prediction is a final score of 66- 61 with Robert Morris advancing.
PHOTO: Josh Williams will need to have a big game tonight to help lead his team past St. Francis. Photo courtesy of Robert Morris athletics.
The post Preview: Robert Morris Colonials vs. St. Francis Terriers appeared first on Pittsburgh Sports Castle.