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Second half adjustments push Robert Morris past North Florida


Less than two minutes into the second half of their First Four game against North Florida, Robert Morris faced a 13-point deficit against a team that seemed to find its rhythm offensively. After turning the ball over ten times in the first 12 minutes of the first half, North Florida took better care of the basketball and found higher quality looks (most notably Beau Beech, who finished with 28 points) against the Robert Morris zone.

In order to close that gap Andy Toole’s team had to change its approach, and in doing so the Colonials were able to turn things around and go on to win 81-77 in Dayton. As a result of this win, Robert Morris’ first NCAA tournament victory since 1983, the Colonials are headed to Charlotte where they’ll take on South Region No. 1 Duke Friday.

One of the changes Robert Morris made was to mix up their defenses, as they used more man-to-man looks despite the fact that they’ve played zone for the majority of their defensive possessions this season. As a result North Florida shot just 3-for-11 from three in the second half, and after building the 13-point lead mentioned above the Ospreys turned the ball over on five of the next seven possessions.

UNF turnovers kept Robert Morris afloat in the first half, and for the game the Ospreys committed 19 turnovers which were converted into 21 points by RMU.

Offensively Robert Morris was much better in the second half, as they did a better job of using dribble penetration to attack a defense that had issues keeping them away from the basket. Lucky Jones (21 points), Rodney Pryor (20) and Marcquise Reed (19), the three offensive leaders throughout the season, combined to score 41 of Robert Morris’ 52 second half points and as a team the Colonials shot 55.2 percent from the field in the second half.

Also of note in the final stanza was the fact that Robert Morris didn’t commit a single turnover, and their ability to take care of the basketball also factored in the outcome.

The next challenge for Robert Morris is a significant one, and that’s going to be the case for any 16-seed. But it’s a challenge they’ll be able to take on, and that wouldn’t have been the case had Toole made some adjustments before the game got out of reach.

Joe O’Shea’s off-balance three-pointer forces overtime in Bryant’s double OT win over Sacred Heart (VIDEO)

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It goes without saying that while March can be a joyous month for some programs, it can be a painful one for other. Sacred Heart falls into the latter category, as they lost 91-85 in double overtime at Bryant in an NEC quarterfinal they led by three points in the final seconds of regulation. That’s where things got wild, with Bryant’s Joe O’Shea playing the role of hero.

In a scramble situation that started with a Dyami Starks missed three, Dan Garvin chased down the missed shot and passed the ball to O’Shea. Leaning forward between two Sacred Heart defenders, O’Shea made a three-pointer as time expired to force overtime. O’Shea finished with a team-high 23 points for Bryant, which is the three-seed in the NEC tournament.

Next up for the Bulldogs is a trip to Pennsylvania to take on two-seed Robert Morris in an NEC semifinal Saturday afternoon.

Video credit: ESPN

NEC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Jalen Cannon (AP Photo)
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Jalen Cannon (AP Photo)

St. Francis of Brooklyn is the oldest college basketball program in New York City, dating all the way back to 1896. They also happen to be one of just five programs that have been in existence since the NCAA tournament began in 1948 to never take part in the event. That could very well change this year, as the Terriers head into March having clinched the outright regular season title two weeks ago. They’ll be tested — Bryant has the league’s best scorer, Mt. St. Mary’s is coming off of a title run last season, and Robert Morris is the NEC’s best program — but they’ll also be favored throughout, playing every game at home. Is this the year the streak ends?

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

The Bracket


When: March 4, 7, 10

Where: Campus sites (better seed in all rounds, reseeded after quarterfinals)

Final: March 10, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

READ MORE:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: St. Francis (NY)

The Terriers were the best team in the conference this season. They also have the league’s best front court player in Jalen Cannon as well as the conference’s best guard in Brent Jones. But there are two things to note: St. Francis split with the other three teams at the top of the conference, and they were just 9-1 in games decided by single digits. They win close games, but they’re not steamrolling the league. They’re beatable.

And if they lose?: Robert Morris

Andy Toole has kept Robert Morris in the conversation as one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, and while they’re not the favorite to win the automatic bid, they’re anything but a pushover. Bobby Mo has had some roster turnover in recent years, but they have three guys this year — Rodney Pryor, Marcquise Reed and Lucky Jones — who can take a game over.


  • Mt. St. Mary’s: Jamion Christian is another member of Shaka Smart’s coaching tree that has found instant success at his new school.
  • Bryant: No one has done as impressive of a job rapidly developing a program as Tim O’Shea has at Bryant. It helps when the league’s leading scorer — Dyami Starks — is one your roster.

Player of the Year: Jalen Cannon, St. Francis (NY)

Cannon will go down as one of the all-time greats in the NEC, finishing his career as the all-time leading scorer in St. Francis history and one of just two players to ever score 1,500 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in conference history. Cannon averaged 16.5 points and 10.2 boards this season.

Coach of the Year: Glenn Braica, St. Francis (NY)

The Terriers were predicted to win the NEC this season, but I’m not sure anyone expected them to clinch the regular season title with two weeks remaining. Playing all three rounds of the league tournament at home will make SFNY the favorite to win their first ever NCAA tournament berth.

All-NEC Team:

  • Cannon
  • Rodney Pryor, Robert Morris – Pryor was the most dangerous weapon for Andy Toole’s club this season, averaging 16.5 points and shooting 43 percent from distance.
  • Dyami Starks, Bryant – Starks was the league’s leading scorer this season, a veteran guard that can take over a game.
  • Brent Jones, St. Francis (NY) – Midway through the season, there could have been a strong case for Jones to be conference Player of the Year over his teammate, Cannon. His scoring numbers slowed down by season’s end, but that didn’t hurt the Terriers.
  • Earl Brown, St. Francis (PA) – The Red Flash struggled late in the season, but Brown did finish with nine double-doubles in league play, averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 boards on the season.

CBT PREDICTION: St. Francis (NY) makes their first appearance in the Big Dance.