FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Up by one point at halftime, a 21.2 percent shooting performance in the second half destined the Sacred Heart men’s basketball team to a 73-63 loss to Robert Morris in Northeast Conference action on Thursday night at the William H. Pitt Center. Despite the defeat, the Pioneers are still tied for second place with four teams in the league at 10-7 with one game remaining, and can still clinch its first NEC quarterfinal home game since 2009, and potentially even a two seed, with a victory on Saturday.
Robert Morris scored the first nine points of the second half and would lead throughout the remainder of the game. SHU got as close as three points four different times, including as late as 57-54 when Cane Broome made two free throws with 8:18 to go, but from there the Pioneers would score just one point over the next 6:01.
After Kavon Stewart answered those two foul shots with a layup on the ensuing trip down the floor, RMU would hit a slump of its own, going scoreless for over four minutes, but Sacred Heart managed just the one point on a Quincy McKnight free throw with 6:38 showing. Billy Giles converted a three-point play to push the lead to seven 1:50 later before Isaiah Still capped the 11-1 run with a layup for a game-high lead, 66-55, with 3:08 left. By the time Broome broke Sacred Heart’s scoreless streak 51 seconds after it was much to late, as it was the Pioneers’ first field since the 11:15 mark, a span of 8:58.
Sacred Heart outrebounded Robert Morris 47-37, but could only turn 15 offensive rebounds into nine points. The 7-33 shooting performance in the second half lowered SHU’s shooting percentage to 33.8 for the game, its second lowest of the season, which including making just 20.0 percent (4-20) from three. Each team made 23 field goals as the Pioneers limited RMU to 41.1 percent from the field, but the Colonials had 21 more free throw attempts, 35-14, making 11 more, 24-13.
Broome led Sacred Heart with 21 points and added four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Matej Buovac was two points shy of a season-high with 16 and Eyimofe Edukugho contributed 11 on 5-7 shooting in just 13 minutes. No other Pioneer scored more than five points. Tevin Falzon led SHU with 10 rebounds, while Jordan Allen dished out a team-high four assists.
Rodney Pryor was one rebound shy of a double double, leading all players with 26 points. Giles was also one shy of a double double with 16 points. Still added 13 and Kavon Stewart had 11, a game-high six assists, and five rebounds.
As mentioned, Sacred Heart can still clinch its first NEC quarterfinal home game since 2009 with a win over Saint Francis U on Saturday. SHU will honor the three members of its senior class, Allen, Falzon and Edukugho, prior to the 3:30 pm tip.
A win on Saturday would still give SHU six wins in back-to-back Februarys, something the Pioneers did just twice during their first 15 years in the NEC
Despite the loss, Sacred Heart’s 9-4 record over the last 13 games are still tied with league champion Wagner for best in the conference
Edukugho’s 11 points were one shy of his 2016 conference-high, and was also one shy of his total from the previous six games
Inside the Box
With 32 of the 63 points, the Sacred Heart bench scored its highest percentage of the team’s total points this season
SHU made a season-best 92.9 percent from the foul line (13-14), its highest percentage since making 13-14 at Robert Morris on January 17, 2013
How it Happened
After both teams were held scoreless for the first 2:08, Robert Morris poured in the first nine points of the game, capped by Steven Whitley’s layup 3:29 in
SHU’s first basket did not come until Buovac made a layup 29 seconds later
RMU took two first half -high leads of ten points, the latter coming after Pryor made a jumper for a 19-9 score with 10:21 remaining
Sacred Heart began its move form there, taking its first lead when Edukugho capped a 14-2 run with his sixth straight point to make the score 23-21 at the 7:05 mark
Robert Morris came right back with eight of the next ten points for the first of two four-point leads, the second coming when Pryor’s three put the Colonials on top, 32-28, with 2:53 showing
SHU answered with the next six and would eventually ride that to slim halftime advantage, 36-35, thanks to Buovac’s layup 35 seconds before the buzzer
Again it took Sacred Heart nearly four minutes to score, with Broome giving the Pioneers their first points 3:32 into the half
That ended a yet another 9-0 RMU run to begin the half, which gave the Colonials a 44-36 lead on Mayy McConnell’s layup with 16:47 left
The lead stayed within four and eight points until SHU cut the deficit to three, 51-48, for the first of four times on Allen’s layup with 11:15 showing. That was the Pioneers’ last basket until Broome’s layup 8:58 later
The Robert Morris lead was also cut to three when Buovac made two free throws at the 9:55 mark and after Broome also drained two foul shots at the 8:52 mark