Robert Morris Colonials Showed Grit and Coaching Smarts Down the Stretch
The Robert Morris Colonials went on the road and earned a split in the state of Connecticut. After losing a tough game to Quinnipiac Bobcats by two points on Thursday night, they rebounded today by upending the Sacred Heart Pioneers, 68-63.
The Colonials are now 18-9 overall and tied in the conference with the Long Island-Brooklyn Blackbirds. However, the Colonials have the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Blackbirds due to a 60-57 win in Brooklyn earlier in the season.
What was most impressive about the Colonials win today was that they responded under extreme adversity.
They were seemingly in foul trouble all day long but still led a 16 point lead with just under four minutes to go. However, the Pioneers went on a 15-1 run and the Colonials had to dig deep to pull the game out.
Head Coach Andy Toole, one of the youngest head coaches in the country, made a great coaching decision late in the game.
Up three points with 9.6 seconds remaining, he decided to foul the Pioneers after they inbounded the ball and took a few dribbles to half court. The decision chopped a few valuable seconds off the clock before the Pioneers went to the line to shoot two free throws. The Pioneers ended up missing both free throws and eventually losing the game.
Toole should be applauded for fouling when the opponent was already in the double bonus. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin Badgers head coach, had two fouls to give, yes to give, and allowed the Michigan Wolverines to connect on a 3-point shot, which would have won the game for Michigan if not for a buzzer beater game-tying 3-point shot.
Toole made a tough choice and it paid off.
It will be those types of in-game decisions that will make Robert Morris the favorite to win the NEC regular season title.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo