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DEJA VU: Once again, Robert Morris 2 points better [Slideshow & Video]
It was the same arena. The same player hit a crucial shot. The same player missed the final shot. In the end, the same team won by two points.
Somewhere between deja vu and a nightmare, No. 3 seed Robert Morris (18-13) defeated No. 2 Quinnipiac (22-9) in a playoff game at the TD Bank Sports Center for the second straight year. The final score this Sunday was 64-62, and the Colonials moved on to the Northeast Conference finals against Long Island.
Velton Jones made a running floater with four seconds left to give the Colonials a 64-62 lead. Following a Quinnipiac timeout, James Johnson bobbled the inbound pass, ran upcourt and slipped on a game-winning 3-point attempt that fell short.
Last year Jones made nearly the same float shot with a little more than a minute left, breaking a 48-48 tie en route to the Colonials 52-50 win in the NEC Championship game.
“I was taking that shot, no matter what it was,” Jones said. “Before the play, all I could think about was last year. I hit almost the same type of shot in almost the same position. Once I floated it in, I saw that I put enough on it and it was going in.”
Just as he did last year, Johnson, who finished with 13 points, took the final desperation shot for the Bobcats.
“He’s earned the right to take that shot on our team through his toughness and hard work,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “I still thought once he got settled and started racing over mid-court he’d make it. That’s the type of kid he is.”
The Bobcats led 62-61 after a pair of Dave Johnson free throws with 57 seconds to go. After a foul by Lance Brown, Russell Johnson went to the free-throw line with 41 seconds to go. Johnson made the first, but missed the second.
The Bobcats, who outrebounded the Colonials 41-25, couldn’t get this one, and the loose ball went off Ike Azotam’s hand and out of bounds. That set up Jones’ game winner.
“The team that made the tougher plays down the stretch – mentally and physically – won,” Moore said. “The game was in the balance the whole time and they made two big threes, we had a couple of turnovers, we couldn’t box out on a free throw, and they win.”
The Bobcats held the biggest lead of the game at seven points with 1:43 left in the first half. The score was tied 12 times and the game featured 22 lead changes.
“That was an incredible college basketball game,” Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole said. “Obviously you’re glad you’re on the victorious end, but you sit and you watch the plays that were made in that game, the effort in that game, the execution in that game, the emotion and heart in that game … I was glad to be a part of it.”
Justin Rutty, who may have played in his final game as a Quinnipiac Bobcat, had 9 points and 10 rebounds.
He became the all-time leading rebounder in the NEC, finishing with 1,025 career rebounds.
Deontay Twyman, another senior on the Bobcats squad, finished with a team-high 14 points. Dave Johnson added 10 points and 9 assists.
Coron Williams scored a game-high 15 points for the Colonials, and Russell Johnson and Lijah Thompson chipped in 14 points apiece.
Jones, who made the game-winning shot, dished out eight assists.
Robert Morris’ win marks the third straight over the Bobcats in NEC Tournament play, dating back to a 75-48 Colonial win on March 8, 2009 in the semifinals.
The Bobcats’ season may not be over just yet, according to Moore.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from the CBI [College Basketball Invitational], the CIT [College Insider Tournament], a phone call from the NIT [National Invitation Tournament], so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to continue post-season play,” he said.
Photos: Matt Eisenberg
Videos: QU Athletics