Just 1:41 into St. Francis Brooklyn’s game against Robert Morris everything changed. In an NEC season full of injuries down went RMU’s star point guard Velton Jones. He was clutching his shoulder. Jones, one of the toughest players in the NEC, tried to return but couldn’t go. Without him the Colonials’ defense struggled and the Terriers got back into the NEC race with a 71-61 victory.
“When your leader and playmaker goes down it is going to be much more difficult,” said RMU head coach Andy Toole. “But there were some parts of it in terms of us getting back within two points and things you like to take home with you, but we just had too many breakdowns to be successful.”
With Velton Jones off the court, SFC’s sophomore point guard Brent Jones went to work. Freed from playing against the hard-nosed senior, Brent Jones went to the rim with regularity and scored 16 points along with six assists and just three turnovers.
The 16 points were a season high. Apparently Jones likes the challenge of playing against RMU, because his career-high of 19 points also came against the Colonials last season a little over a year ago.
“This was just a wake up call that any given night you don’t know what team will give you it and just win, especially in this conference,” Brent Jones said.
The Terriers had lost a heart-breaker to Central Connecticut last weekend, but right from the tip they came out assertive. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead and led 37-30 at the half. Robert Morris struggled to contain Jalen Cannon in the paint and committed a lot of fouls, which led to 26 SFC free throws.
Cannon had 16 points on just six shots from the field thanks to a 6-9 night from the charity stripe. Akeem Johnson was 4-9 from the field and scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“The fouls were kind of foolish fouls,” Toole said. “Not even good take away a basket type fouls. They were a post-up, a hand check. Just stuff that makes your life much more difficult when you’re trying to stop two very good inside guys like Jalen Cannon and Akeem Johnson.”
A lot of them came from breakdowns of defensive assignments. Similar mistakes allowed Ben Mockford to get open from three. He was 4-7 from distance and scored 14 points.
The Terriers had some of their own struggles defensively. RMU’s junior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate was thrust into a larger role and responded. He was able to get into the paint and finished with 14 points and six assists. Karvel Anderson added 14 points on 5-11 shooting. SFC though matched RMU on the glass and made enough plays to get the victory.
Part of the reason the Terriers kept up on the glass outside of Cannon and Johnson down low was freshman Anthony White. He played 33 minutes and set a career-high with five rebounds. He also scored four points and dished out five assists. Even at 6’2″, White’s length and quickness helped him make a big impact against the Colonials’ veteran backcourt.
“It helps me out a lot on defense and rebounding because I don’t jump as high as other people,” White said about his length.
White also said that rebounding was a big key against a Colonials team that came in as one of the top front lines in the NEC.
“This week we worked on rebounding a lot,” White said. “They’re a good team with defense and rebounding, so we worked hard on it and did it during the game.”
The Terriers looked like a veteran team and much more experienced down the stretch. Mockford hit some big shots to keep the Colonials at bay. His three with 5:42 remaining pushed the Terriers’ lead back out to seven points and his trey with a minute left was the final dagger.
Robert Morris will now try and figure out how to make up for the absence of Velton Jones when the Colonials take on LIU Brooklyn on Saturday. The two teams are tied for second in the conference behind Bryant after another crazy night in the NEC. If Jones can’t go it’ll be one tough assignment.