Colonials battle Badgers close; split wild Urban-Bennett Memorial Classic

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The Robert Morris Colonials capped off their road trip before coming home to host the 2023 Urban-Bennett Memorial Class by traveling to the Kohl Center and face off against the Wisconsin Badgers. Coming off a close loss to Towson, all eyes were on how RMU would look to bounce back against a power 5 school.

The first half was a story of runs, with the Badgers opening up on a 10-3 run, followed by RMU with a run themselves to take a 14-12 lead with an 11-2 run. Wisconsin would run off the next seven points and ultimately take a 37-35 edge into halftime. Knowing what we know about the Colonials, heading to the break down two at a Power 5 school, you take that, specially after their brief displays this season.

RMU would keep the Badgers at arms length for majority of the game, knotting the game at 50 halfway through the second half. Jackson Last would lead Robert Morris, tying his career high of 16 points and would have three other Colonials join him in double figures, most notably TJ Wainwright who poured in 15 of his own. However, the same old bug that has bitten RMU over the last few seasons would rear its ugly head again; second half lapses.

Wisconsin would knock down 11 of their 18 field goals in the last 20 minutes to add to their 16 of 24 from the line. One eye popping stat line from this game was the numbers from the line, RMU would only attempt 9 free throws to the Badgers’ 40. You could argue that however, the lackluster performance from the line kept this one closer than it should have been as Wisconsin would only knock down 27 of their last 40 to keep Robert Morris in it for the majority of the night.

Ultimately, the Badgers would fare to be too much late for RMU, sinking a barrage of free throws late to put away the Colonials, 78-68. Next up for RMU would be one of the craziest endings I think most of us have ever seen.

Robert Morris would look to burn off the holiday sweets and treats by tipping off the 2023 Urban-Bennett Memorial Classic, welcoming the Jacksonville Dolphins to the UPMC Events Center and boy, hope you had your popcorn ready for this one.

This one felt chippy from the jump, but not overly crazy, but you could at times, feel like things were heating up in a sense. Jacksonville’s Robert McCray and Bryce Workman were just an absolute handful for the Colonials Friday, dropping a combined 43 of their 74 points. With just under 7 minutes left, RMU forcing JU into a timeout, things popped off officially.

Heading into the timeout, both teams appeared to head towards their benches when Robert Morris’ TJ Wainwright and JU’s Markus Niblack appeared to jaw back and forth. Things escalated from there very quickly, RMU head coach Andy Toole found himself in the middle of the squabble. Tempers flared pretty quickly, no major punches were thrown what appeared on TV, however both head coaches, Wainwright and Niblack would be assessed technical fouls. After what felt like about a 15-20 minute delay, officials would deem any player NOT currently in the game, would be ejected for leaving the bench area. Teams would have to finish out the last 6:22 5-on-5, no subs. Just when you it appeared order was restored, both head coaches took off down the entry way to the locker rooms to ensure nothing would escalate further, both teams set assistants outside their respective rooms to make sure order was fully restored.

Once order was restored both head coaches met briefly and shook hands before action resumed, RMU faced the final 6:22 down 1 and would force a McCray miss, but allowed a Jarius Cook 3 to push their lead to four. McCray would make sure to leave his mark on this one, sinking four free throws to close this one out for JU, 74-65. Post game did not provide much insight into the exchanges at half court, thankfully all players ejected were only deemed ineligible for the remainder of Fridays game, no punishment has carried over.

RMU would cap off the in season tournament by facing off against well known foe and 2023 NCAA tourney Cinderella, Fairleigh Dickinson.

Josh Corbin would give RMU and their fans a lot to be thankful for in this one, scoring a game high 34 points on 8/16 shooting, including 7/14 from deep. The first half really felt like a story of what ifs and almost for RMU and they would build a double digit lead, only to watch FDU fight right back. Corbin early on in the first half ran up 15 points and it just felt like RMU was up by 20, but only headed to the break up 7. The second half was going to be, at least in my mind, the most important 20 minutes of this early season for RMU. Coming off the close call (sort of) in Wisconsin, the drama with Jacksonville, RMU needed to find a way to blow someone out. It does not matter who, but some how, they needed to find their groove on both ends of the floor and not allow this performance by Corbin to be an afterthought.

RMU would build a solid double digit lead for most of the second half, only to yet again, seem to take their foot off the game late and allow FDU to claw back to 86-81. That has simply been the story for RMU the last few seasons, just the inability to finish off games late and it seemed like this one was again headed down the same path.

RMU who coming into the game 75th in the country in free throw percentage, would knock down 93% of their free throws, with Corbin, Wainwright and Walker going a combined 23/23. TJ Wainwright and Justice Williams would contribute a combined 41 to Corbins 34, 21 and 20 respectively.

Next up for the 2-5 Colonials will be some quick Horizon League play as they head to Northern Kentucky on Wednesday to face off again NKU, followed by a quick trip home to welcome Youngstown State to the UPMC Events Center. With 3 of their next 5 games at home, its time to build off the win against FDU, specially for Corbin and Wainwright, who play big roles in the engine that is the 2023 Colonials.

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