Robert Morris denies St. Francis 1st NCAA bid in NEC final
(AP) - Rodney Pryor scored 17 points and Robert Morris denied St. Francis, Brooklyn, its first NCAA Tournament bid, beating the Terriers 66-63 in the Northeast Conference tournament championship on Tuesday night.
The top-seeded Terriers (23-11) had a chance to tie with 2.4 seconds left when Tyreek Jewell, who scored 19 points and was their best player on this night, went to the line after being fouled shooting a desperation 3-pointer.
Jewell missed the first, back-ending the shot and then the second. He intentionally missed the last one, but Robert Morris got the ball back and was quickly fouled. Elijah Minnie missed a free throw that would have sealed it and Lowell Ulmer's heave from beyond half-court hit the back of the rim, took a high bounce and then missed again.
It was Robert Morris and their fans celebrating as the SFC crowd lamented the Terriers' third NEC title game loss, but first since 2003. St. Francis is one of just five original Division I teams, dating back to 1948, that has never made the NCAA Tournament.
Second-seeded Robert Morris (19-15) is going back to the tournament for the first time since 2010 and for the first time period under coach Andy Toole, who had lost three NEC title games in his first four seasons since taking over at the school in suburban Pittsburgh.
The Colonials, their enthusiastic fans and their band made themselves comfortable in the cramped quarters of Division I's fourth-smallest gym. The Pope PE Center was packed to its 1,200-capacity and loud, but Robert Morris never wilted.
Using a confounding zone, Robert Morris limited the touches for NEC player of the year Jalen Cannon and held him to 10 points.
Glenn Sanabria of St. Francis made a long 3 from straight on with 16.2 seconds left to cut Robert Morris' lead to 64-63 and put the Pope Center on the brink of bursting with chants of" S-F-C!!"
Lucky Jones went to the line and swished both free throws with 13.8 remaining to make it a three-point game for Robert Morris.
Tunnus Hopkinson missed a corner 3 for St. Francis with time winding down, but Jewell tracked down the rebound and spun and fired from the wing. Minnie slammed into Jewell to put the junior at the line, but the 65-percent foul shooter couldn't make the shots.
Robert Morris went on a 16-3 run to take a 57-47 lead on Pryor's 3 from the wing with 6:51 left in the second half. That took much of the energy out of the rowdy crowd and standing-room-only student section.
Jewell put some life back into the building with a 3 to cut the lead to seven, but Minnie flew down the lane for a tip-in on the other end to answer.
Jewell wasn't done. Another 3 made it 59-54 with 4:16 left.