Meyer on Morris Link
Moon Township, Pa. - You might recall the story posted on this site a couple of days ago that indicated Robert Morris University senior guard Velton Jones almost certainly would not be able to play last Saturday at LIU Brooklyn.
That story was wrong.
Velton Jones did indeed play Saturday against LIU Brooklyn, but he did more than just play.
He shrugged off a sprained right shoulder and inspired the Colonials to a gritty 60-57 victory that ended the Blackbirds' six-game winning streak and kept RMU just ahead of the real thick of the Northeast Conference race.
Bryant leads the league with an 8-2 record. The Colonials are 7-3. Behind those two teams are six teams that are either 6-4 (four) or 5-5 (two).
Jones and his pain tolerance are two reasons why the Colonials are not stuck in that jam-up.
"He's the heart and soul of our team,'' RMU coach Andrew Toole said. "He gives our guys energy and confidence, and (Saturday) was a prime example.''
Before we get more into what Jones did on the court, let's back-track a bit and see how Jones went from being a virtual no-go to a for-sure hero.
In RMU's game at St. Francis Brooklyn Thursday night, Jones was hit twice on his shoulder and played only two minutes - none in the final 38 minutes of RMU's 71-61 loss to the Terriers.
Asked Friday morning if he thought Jones would be able to play at LIU Brooklyn, Toole said: "I don't see it.''
Oh, Toole did have a chat with Jones early Saturday and learned that Jones was considering wrapping his shoulder and playing. This was, after all, the Colonials' only regular-season meeting with the Blackbirds, who in each of the previous two seasons had defeated RMU in the NEC championship game.
Toole told Jones: "V, I don't want you doing anything if you're not going to be comfortable and you're not going to be effective.''
That seemed to settle the issue. Except for Jones' recuperative powers.
Just as Toole was preparing for his talk with the team minutes before the game, Jones came into the locker room with trainer Jason Daley.
"Coach,'' Daley said, "I think this guy's a wolverine. He regenerates himself.''
With that, Jones declared himself ready to play.
"The guys didn't know he was playing,'' Toole said. "They started getting some life. Velton was huge on both ends of the floor. Adrenaline is a (heck) of a drug.''
Jones provided a harbinger of what was to come late in the game with two plays near the end of the first half. With 30 seconds left, he stole the ball and then made a field goal, left-handed, no less, in the paint with five seconds remaining that gave the Colonials a 32-29 halftime lead.
Robert Morris expanded that lead to 51-43 with nine minutes remaining, but the Blackbirds pecked away and held slim leads with three minutes and two minutes left.
Jones took care of that last Blackbird lead by making a floater in the lane with 11 seconds remaining that put RMU up, 58-57.
"It was a designed play,'' Toole said. "We'd run it numerous times in the game. They weren't helping on him (defensively), and we were hoping we'd be able to get some penetration in the lane.''
The Colonials weren't safe yet, though.
The Blackbirds brought the ball downcourt.
"We were trying to keep them off the rim,'' Toole said.
Anderson made both his free throws, and that finally sealed it.
"I'm exhausted,'' Toole said moments after the final horn, "and I can't even imagine how the guys feel after the effort they gave. I'm so proud of the way they stuck to the game plan and continued to work together. Other than one or two breakdowns, I think we did what we had to. We controlled the tempo and got some stops. If you keep putting yourself in position to win, eventually you're going to get one.''
Toole paused, trying to put this win in perspective.
"We've had some very sharp performances this season,'' he said. "We've had some explosive performances. We've had some poor performances. This was probably the gutsiest effort we've had all year. That's how it's going to be in conference play.''
Especially this season, it seems.
On the other hand, as Robert Morris showed Saturday, a team can "shoulder'' on and win a game right now and avoid that drop.
UP NEXT: The Colonials entertain Saint Francis University Wednesday night at the Charles L. Sewall Center, and perhaps Robert Morris got a break when the Red Flash held on to win at St. Francis Brooklyn, 64-61, Saturday. That win might have been what former Pirate broadcaster Bob Prince called "the hidden vigorish.''
The Red Flash had lost 15 consecutive road games since winning at Fairleigh Dickinson, 69-63, Jan. 21, 2012.
Earl Brown had another double-double for Saint Francis University, scoring 19 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Teammate Ollie Jackson scored 14 points, including four on free throws in the final 31 seconds that helped clinch the victory.
Jalen Cannon had a 20-11 double-double for the Terriers, who were only 2-for-21 from three-point range and made just 15-of-25 free throws.
NEC NUGGETS: Bryant pulled away from a slim 36-35 lead four minutes into the second half and took care of host Monmouth, 77-62, Saturday night. The Bulldogs kept the Hawks grounded by making nine consecutive free throws in the final 1:39. Frankie Dobbs led Bryant with 27 points, while teammate Alex Francis contributed a 15-11 double-double. Jesse Steele had 27 points for Monmouth, which made just 6-of-25 from international waters ... Wagner was called for 31 personal fouls and had three players foul out in its 74-69 loss to Quinnipiac, which led, 18-3, eight minutes in. The Bobcats were 36-of-44 from the free-throw line, including 29-of-36 in the second half. Wagner's Latif Rivers scored 26 of his 29 points in the second half ... Mount St. Mary's climbed back into contention for a spot in the NEC Tournament with a 91-82 win against visiting Sacred Heart. The Mountaineers built a 50-27 halftime lead. Sacred Heart did get to within 82-75 with 1:05 left, but its comeback effort ended then. Rashad Whack scored 35 points - 23 in the first half - for Mount St. Mary's, which was 13-for-26 from beyond the arc. Louis Montes scored 21 and Shane Gibson added 18 for the Pioneers ... Central Connecticut State had little trouble winning at Fairleigh Dickinson, 80-71. Blue Devil star Kyle Vinales, who's averaging 21.6 points per game, played only 20 minutes because of foul trouble and finished with seven points. That ended a 12-game run in double figures for the sophomore guard, who also scored seven points at Indiana Dec. 8. Adonis Burbage took up the slack from Vinales with 24 points. Senior Yves Jules was the only Knight in double figures with 34 points in his 24 minutes.