Men’s Basketball Out of NEC Race

The men’s basketball team has been eliminated from Northeast Conference (NEC) Tournament contention after losing to Robert Morris and Saint Francis (PA) this weekend.

Robert Morris beat the Hawks (10-19, 5-11) 77-65 on Thursday as Russell Johnson scored a game-high 20 points for the Colonials (20-9, 12-4).

“Robert Morris is a tough team to play,” Head Coach King Rice said. “You have to give them a lot of credit. We fought as hard as we have in a long time tonight, and put 40 minutes together.”

MU never led in the game and trailed by 10, 24-14, halfway through the first half. They went on a 6-0 run from there, with baskets made by Dion Nesmith, Ed Waite and Khalil Brown, but four points would be the closest they were for the remainder of the half.

The Hawks got within one point a few times in the second half, but were never able to tie or take the lead.

Tyrone O’Garro brought MU within a single point twice halfway through the second frame. He made a basket and was fouled with 10:14 left in the game to make it 53-52. Another layup 29 seconds later put the Hawks behind 55-54.

The game remained close until Karvel Anderson made a three-pointer to put the Colonials ahead 67-61 with 3:10 on the clock. That’s the closest the Hawks would be for the remainder of the game, as the lead ballooned to 12 at the final whistle.

Lucky Jones scored 19 points for Robert Morris. He made six of seven three-point attempts and a foul shot. He also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.

Jesse Steele led the Hawks in scoring with 16. Nesmith and Stephen Spinella were right behind him with 14 and 12 a piece.

As a team, MU was 20 of 23 from the free throw line, compared to the Colonials’ 14 of 16.

Saint Francis ended MU’s chance at a NEC Tournament birth on Saturday with a 70-68 win. Anthony Ervin led the Red Flash (5-22, 5-11) with 19 points.

“We have to give Saint Francis credit,” Rice said. “They outplayed us and beat us today. Our kids tried hard, but I’m tired of saying our kids tried hard. You’re supposed to try hard. We have to play better. Hopefully these last two games, we will play better.”

Steele made a three-pointer with 55 seconds left to put the Hawks behind 68-66. MU had every chance to tie the game at this point but never converted.

Spinella stole the ball and the Hawks called timeout with 49 ticks remaining. Twelve seconds later, Steele missed a jumper to tie the game.

Earl Brown grabbed the rebound for the Red Flash, but fell and was called for traveling. Steele drove to tie and was stripped with 22 seconds on the clock.

Brown made two free throws for Saint Francis and Nesmith quickly responded with a layup. With 12 seconds left, the Hawks trailed 70-68.

MU forced a turnover and had the ball with eight seconds still on the clock. Steele missed a three and Christian White threw up a desperation shot off the rebound that wasn’t close.

Nesmith led the team with 20 points and Steele scored 19.

In his last three games, Steele has been 21 of 21 from the free throw line (10 of 10, four of four, seven of seven).

The Hawks are tied for tenth place in the NEC and end the season with two home games this week. They play Mount St. Mary’s on Thursday and Wagner on Saturday.