Yet again, it was a numerical mismatch for Robert Morris, something that will be a reality for the indefinite future.
Just like they did Thursday in a rout of Sacred Heart, the Colonials dressed only eight players against Wagner Saturday in the wake of suspensions and other roster moves.
And at certain points it showed. There was a moment when 6-foot point guard Anthony Myers-Pate had to defend 6-foot-7 Mario Moody and later had to post up on offense against 6-foot-11 Naofall Folahan. Against one of the longest, deepest teams in the Northeast Conference, there were extended stretches where Robert Morris’ second-tallest player on the court was 6-foot-3 Charles Oliver.
But despite of that – the lack of size, the lack of depth and playing against a markedly better opponent than the one two days prior – it again found a way to win.
Karvel Anderson scored a game-high 21 points, leading a group of four teammates that scored in double figures, as the Colonials (11-10, 6-0 Northeast Conference) held on to defeat Wagner, 74-70, at the Sewall Center.
After the game, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole spoke at length about gods, the kind that exert control over a basketball game by rewarding those that play the right way. With his team shorthanded again, it got some help when it needed it.
“I’m not the most religious person, but I believe in the basketball gods and they might have been with us on that occasion because of the effort and the respect our guys gave over a 40-minute period,” Toole said. “Everybody was on the floor, everybody was making plays, everybody was together, everybody was cheering for each other and sometimes when you do those things, the ball bounces your way.”
In particular, Toole was making reference to the game’s final point, when Colonials forward Aaron Tate -- a 35.7 percent free throw shooter -- had a free throw bounce off the rim and nearly off the top of the backboard before going in the basket to give his team a four-point lead with five seconds remaining.
Robert Morris trailed by five with 11 minutes remaining, but they went on a 12-2 run to take a 61-55 lead. The Seahawks (9-10, 3-3) would remain close for the rest of the game, trailing by only a single point in the final minute.
But freshman point guard Kavon Stewart made all four of his free throw attempts in the final 30 seconds to help keep his team’s cushion intact before Tate ultimately put the game away.
Though Robert Morris was without six of its players, some of them were watching from the stands and still providing support.
To their active teammates, their presence was felt.
“Those are still our brothers,” Anderson said. “Whatever happened, happened. It takes nothing away from what we’ve been through the whole year and the preseason. They’re still family no matter what.”
Robert Morris’ 6-0 start in NEC play is the best in program history and the victory also marks the first time it has been over .500 since Nov. 22. Myers-Pate added 12 points while Stewart and Lucky Jones had 10 apiece.
The Colonials players know that the past two games may be indicative of what faces them for the rest of the season. But if those wins were any barometer for what’s to come, they’re fine what the numbers they have.
“Coming into this game, we continued to tell ourselves that we have a lot fight in us,” Jones said. “Even though people keep doubting us, we’re still going to get the job done.”