The Robert Morris locker room after just the second win of the season wasn’t the typical celebratory scene. Some players shared a few laughs, but for the most part, the coaching staff was more hyped for the victory than the guys who were actually playing.
The Colonials beat Lehigh 69-67 on Thursday at the Sewall Center, never managing more than a 10-point lead and staving off a late comeback when the Mountain Hawks tied the game 67-67 with 1:26 to play. Junior point guard Kavon Stewart made a layup before the Colonials forced a turnover on a traveling call with four seconds to play to seal an elusive win.
“I don’t even know if guys know how to really respond to a win,” coach Andy Toole said. “I’m like, ‘Where is the energy? This is really hard, guys. We’ve worked hard the last couple days to prepare ourselves to earn the right to win the game, we win the game in semi-dramatic fashion by getting some big stops late and handling some adversity down the stretch. Let’s enjoy this.’”
Robert Morris improved to 2-9 as it heads into a 2 p.m Saturday matchup at Duquesne. Lehigh fell to 1-8.
Considering Lehigh had to play without leading scorer junior center/forward Tim Kempton, who averages 16.8 points per game, perhaps Robert Morris should have been able to pull away for more than a one-possession victory. But at this point in the season, a win is a win.
“This team has been through a lot even though we’re only 10 games in, knowing what our record is,” freshman guard Matty McConnell said. “Because we’ve probably had five or six one-possession games that we couldn’t pull out. So just to know that we battled tonight and got that win, it felt really good.”
This game was a bit of a role reversal for the Colonials, who had made a habit of letting opponents build a hefty lead before scrambling in the dying minutes for a close loss. This time around, Robert Morris led the game for 34 minutes and 8 seconds.
“It made a very big difference,” Stewart said of playing with a lead. “If you look at our past games, we’re used to playing catch up, and by then, we’d be already dead tired. So when we’re up, we get to … manage the game.”
Rodney Pryor had a rare off-the-bench performance as Toole said his senior guard was a little “banged up.” But even without the starting spot, Pryor led the game with 20 points and five assists, turning in a game runner-up six rebounds. He also had two steals and a block.
“Rodney’s one of the most talented guys ever to be in this program,” Toole said. “There’s no denying that, and he has a really special gift to be able to score the basketball.”
Toole said there are many positives to build off from this game, like how decreasing the 15 turnovers the team had while shooting 53 percent could make an even bigger impact in the next match.
But maybe the most important part of the team that needs fixing is the celebrating.
“It’s new to some guys,” Toole said. “So hopefully we can get some more of them so we can get a little better at enjoying them.”