Moon Township, Pa. - The Robert Morris University men's basketball team extended its winning streak to a season-high five games Saturday night with a 68-60 victory over Central Connecticut State to close out a three-game homestand at the Charles L. Sewall Center.
Thanks to the win the Colonials clinched a home game in the 2012 Northeast Conference Tournament.
In improving to 21-8 overall and 12-4 in the NEC, RMU also notched victory No. 500 in the 36-year Division I history of the program. All-time Robert Morris owns a record of 500-537 (.482).
The Colonials jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the opening minutes against the Blue Devils (11-15, 8-8 NEC), buoyed by five points from redshirt junior forward Russell Johnson (Chester, Pa. / Chester).
On a pair of occasions midway through the first half Central Connecticut State closed to within one, including 13-12 after a layup from Robby Ptacek at the 9:41 mark of the first half.
However, Robert Morris used a 15-4 run to open up its first double-digit advantage of the contest, 28-16, with just 18 seconds to play before intermission.
Junior forward Lijah Thompson (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monsignor Bonner) was the main offensive force, igniting the surge with a three-point play and scoring nine points during the run.
RMU owned a 28-19 edge entering the second half, but CCSU used a 12-5 run to close within 33-31 with 14:24 remaining. Kyle Vinales scored 10 points during the spurt, including a pair of three-pointers.
Robert Morris stemmed the tide with a jumper from Thompson to give the Colonials a 35-31 lead, then used a 16-3 run to take a 53-36 lead with 7:14 to play.
RMU's long range shooting came into play, as redshirt sophomore guard Coron Williams (Midlothian, Va. / Christchurch School) hit a three-pointer, while sophomore guard Anthony Myers (Washington, D.C. / Charis Prep) converted a pair from beyond the arc.
Freshman guard Brandon Herman (Chattanooga, Tenn. / Charis Prep) would give RMU its biggest lead of the contest, 59-41, with just 3:54 to go, but Vinales led a furious rally by the Blue Devils, scoring 16 points in the final three minutes and 20 seconds of action.
Vinales' eighth three-pointer of the game with 1:04 to go capped a 17-4 run and made it a two-possession game, 63-58 in favor of RMU, but the Colonials closed out the victory by going 8-for-9 at the charity stripe in the final 1:11 of play. Redshirt junior guard Velton Jones (Philadelphia, Pa. / Northeast Catholic) led the way, going 6-for-6.
Thompson paced RMU with 15 points off the bench, hitting six of his 10 shots from the field and going 3-for-3 at the chalk, while Johnson contributed 14 points, a game-high nine rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
Vinales scored 29 of his game-high 32 points in the second half, finishing 10-for-22 from the field, including 8-for-14 from long range, and 4-for-7 at the free-throw line.
Ptacek added 14 points and six boards for CCSU, while Terrell Allen finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Robert Morris closes out the 2011-12 regular season with a pair of road games, beginning Thursday, Feb. 23, with a 7:00 p.m. tip against Sacred Heart at the William H. Pitt Center in Fairfield, Conn.
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