The Robert Morris Colonials (13-10, 7-3) lost to the Wagner Seahawks (15-6, 8-2) on Sunday in a battle for first place in the NEC.
Quickly into the game, Robert Morris was able to start strong on an 8-3 lead going into the first media timeout. After Wagner would tie it back up 8-8. The Colonials would go on an 8-0 run that would double Wagner’s score at 16-8 causing coach Bashir Mason to call his first timeout of the game. About a minute after the timeout, Colonial star forward Koby Thomas would suffer with what looked like a lower body injury. Thomas would return later in the first half.
The Colonials would dominate for much of the first half as Wagner’s only lead would be the 3-2 lead they had early in the first and the Seahawks would not tie it back up after they tied it up at 8-8. Robert Morris would gain their first double digit lead at 26-16 with about six minutes left in the first on a Leondre Washington three. Washington has been one of the more consistent scorer in conference play for Robert Morris as he had scored at least ten points in six of his last seven games coming into this one. He would eclipse the ten point mark, once again, with three minutes left in the first.
Under a minute to go in the first, Koby Thomas would hit a breakaway dunk. This would lead Thomas to yell something in the direction of JoJo Cooper. The two would get into a shouting match and they would both be given a technical. Robert Morris would get the ball back and extend their lead to double digits once again. The Colonials would go into the second half with the lead at 42-32.
A perfect stat that summarizes how dominate Robert Morris was is when looking at the three point shooting. In the first, Robert Morris shot 62% from behind the arc while holding Wagner to just 20%. Colonials was clicking on all cylinders against arguably the best team in the NEC.
“I thought we really managed the game and played really well in the first half,” said head coach Andy Toole. “(Robert Morris) Executed, had poise, defended with urgency.”
Coming out of halftime Wagner looked a lot more like the team they’ve been all year long. They would take a lead at 59-48 after outscoring Robert Morris 27-6 in the first ten minutes of the second half. During that run, Leondre Washington would get shaken up after being smacked in the face by a Wagner player. Washington would return just minutes later. He would later be seen with a bloody nose on the sideline. After that he would hit a big three pointer, to pull the team within eight and give Robert Morris their first points in almost ten minutes.
After that, lead by guards Matty McConnell and Leondre Washington, the Colonials would begin to chip away at the Seahawks’ lead. They were able to pull within seven, but Wagner’s shooting was relentless in the second. So despite the numerous amount of effort plays by Leondre, and McConnell especially, Robert Morris wasn’t able to close the gap in the second and lost by the score of 77 to 64.
“(Robert Morris) came out into the second half and didn’t have that same poise and energy,” said coach Toole. “Give credit to Wagner for the way they played and executed in the second half. They played tremendous in the second half.”
Despite the poor second half, there was a lot to like from the Colonials in this one. First off, the effort and play of Matty McConnell and Leondre Washington could not be understated. Washington finished the game with 20 points, while McConnell finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. He was also in on seemingly every single loose ball and had a lot of moments that were critical, but won’t show up on the stat sheet.
“They were excellent,” said coach Toole. “Without their efforts it’s pretty ugly. I thought Matty was aggressive getting downhill. I thought Leondre did a really great job. He came out with great focus and was locked in.”
A big reason for the loss was the team being without Dachon Burke for most of the game as he quickly got into foul trouble and only played 20 minutes overall. Koby Thomas also struggled to just 2-12 shooting, but he still managed to end the day with nine rebounds.
“(Matty McConnell and Leondre Washington) needed some help,” said coach Toole. “They needed some more guys to be able to finish plays or more guys needed to step up and knock down shots when they had them. You’re not going to be able to beat (Wagner) with one or two guys making a shot. You need to have numerous guys making a shot. Obviously in the first half we had more guys that were ready. Some guys that we should be able to count on, struggled from the field tonight.”
Robert Morris’s next game will be home against Mount Saint Mary’s on Thursday at 7:00pm. That game will be the last one at PPG Paints Arena for Robert Morris. Their final two home games will take place at the AJ Palumbo Center.