NCAA tourney bid at stake for Robert Morris
Robert Morris plays a zone defense and St. Francis Brooklyn plays man-to-man. The Colonials are perimeter-oriented for the most part. St. Francis’ main weapon is a tough inside presence.
Despite their differences, the two squads are enough alike to end up in the NEC Tournament championship Tuesday at the Terriers’ home court, Pope P.E. Center.
An RMU win would send the Colonials to the NCAA Tournament for the first time under fifth-year coach Andy Toole.
St. Francis won the NEC regular-season title with a 15-3 record (23-10 overall). RMU finished tied for second at 12-6 (18-14). In the two regular-season games played eight days apart, each team won on the road, St. Francis by five points and the Colonials by two.
“I think both teams know it’s going to be a close game,” Toole said. “Both teams know from the first two games that we’re pretty evenly matched.”
The Colonials beat Wagner in the quarterfinals (91-68) and Bryant in the semifinal round (66-53). Both games were at home. RMU has won four straight.
“I think we’re playing our best basketball,” Toole said. “It’s hard to argue that. It’s a matter of can we do it consistently for 40 minutes.”
Toole described both teams as “defense-first,” but the Colonials, with the league’s best shooting percentage, became known for their offensive prowess this season. Most of the scoring comes from a pair of first-year guards, junior Rodney Pryor (15.2 ppg), a junior college transfer, and freshman Marcquise Reed (14.9), plus senior swingman Lucky Jones (14.2), a former starter who has thrived as the sixth man.
Leading the Terriers is NEC Player of the Year Jalen Cannon, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound forward who averages 16.5 points and 10.4 rebounds. Cannon went 2 of 8 and scored eight points in the St. Francis win over RMU but came back with 21 points and 16 rebounds in the Colonials’ win.
“He’s a hard guy to stop because he’s so relentless,” Toole said.