RMU collects first Horizon League tourney win after tough regular season

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Going 5-16 in Horizon League play this season, it was hard to expect much of RMU in their tournament opener, but, that’s why they play the game.

Robert Morris opened the 2022 Horizon League tournament Tuesday night against Youngstown State, who they previously beat on their last visit earlier this season. The Penguins earned the 7 seed and finished the regular season with a 12-9 record, but would welcome a hungry RMU squad in the first round. March is about the “one and done” set up; one bad night, your season can end.

The Colonials would look to Kahliel Spear yet again to lead the way in only their second league tourney contest, and boy would he absolutely deliver. Spear would open the contest with an early three and Robert Morris seemed to just rally behind him from that point on. RMU, who in their previous two meetings against YSU had never lead at the break, would take a 9-point advantage into halftime. Could this FINALLY be the night Robert Morris puts 20 complete minutes together?

RMU would open the second half on a 7-0 run, building their lead up to 16 and all but deliver the knock out punch to the Penguins season. The real story of this game seemed to be the 50/50 balls and Robert Morris’ defense. In a “one and done” environment, its pretty clear to tell who the hungrier team is by looking at who is getting to the 50/50 balls and tonight, that was the Colonials. RMU did a fantastic job for most of the game (things got a little whacky towards the end, but let’s be positive and positive only tonight) limiting Youngstown State to one shot on the offensive end. For a team that wants to run and light you up in transition, that is killer.

Perhaps the play of not only the night, but maybe the season for Robert Morris came late in the second half when Enoch Cheeks threw down one of the more powerful dunks I have seen. It was so wild, it caused RMU coach Andy Toole to get a bit loose on the sideline; I mean I about woke up my whole family after that one!

Robert Morris, as I mentioned above, would let things get a little bit silly the last few minutes, but in a game they never once trailed, would pull out a 77-73 victory. A season filled with so many close calls, so many “what ifs”, it is hard not to feel good for this team after tonight. Sure, their misfortune this season is all on them for not executing at crunch time, and tonight, for the most part, they reverted back to the RMU teams that would torture NEC foes.

Now, there is more at stake here. the Colonials now move on the to the Horizon League quarterfinals on Thursday where they likely will face Cleveland State. Savor this one for 24 hours and move on. RMU, as unlikely as it may sound, its just 3 wins from another berth in the NCAA tournament. Yes, like I said, its VERY unlikely, but this is Toole we are talking about, he and March are like Peanut butter and Jelly; just go together.

(It appears the Robert Morris coaching staff has already moved on to Thursday, as a text exchange with RMU assistant Jimmy Langhurst started and ended with “we gotta get one Thursday, let’s go”)

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