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College Sports

Men's Basketball: A rivalry renewed for Mount, Robert Morris

Two familiar foes will be vying for a spot in the Northeast Conference tournament championship game when Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary's face off today in the semifinals at Knott Arena.

The game marks the eighth time in 12 seasons the rivals will have met in the NEC tourney, a stretch that includes the 2009 and 2014 championship games. Robert Morris won the NEC crown eight years ago, and the Mount prevailed five years after that.

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But this round is a familiar one in general for the Mountaineers (17-15), who have reached the tournament semis in four of coach Jamion Christian's five seasons at the helm. They're 6-7 all-time in the semifinal round, but 2-1 under Christian. And the Mount is 5-4 when facing the Colonials (14-18) in a postseason setting.

The regular-season champion Mountaineers, the top seed in the NEC tourney, defeated Robert Morris twice this season — the first being a 48-47 nail-biter in Emmitsburg on Jan. 26, the second a 74-70 win in Moon Township, Pa., on Feb. 9. Now they need to take down the Colonials a third time, like they did to Sacred Heart in the quarterfinal round, to get back to the NEC title game.

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Sacred Heart made the Mount work, however, to advance. The No. 8 seed Pioneers led by 10 points in the first half Wednesday, and put together a 17-0 run against a sloppy Mount unit. Not until veteran guard Junior Robinson took control down the stretch could the Mountaineers fans feel good about their team's chances.

MSM's young players had their struggles, though. Freshman guard Miles Wilson was scoreless at halftime. Sophomore guard Elijah Long, while finishing with 19 points, three assists, and three steals, collected six of the Mount's 17 turnovers.

Robinson helped save the day with 22 points, four rebounds, and four assists.

"One of the things I'm always worried about in this first game is just going to be jitters," Christian said after the quarterfinal win. "If you remember Junior in his first playoff game here, or Elijah in his first playoff game last year, there's always a little bit of jitters involved. We wanted to make sure we just had guys that were just loose and confident, and able to make plays down the stretch there."

Long, a first-team all-NEC pick this year, leads Mount St. Mary's in scoring (14.9 points per game) and assists (4.4 per game), while Robinson, a second-team all-conference selection, averages 13.7 and 2.9.

Christian said he's confident in his backcourt mates, along with Wilson (NEC all-rookie team) to operate the offense.

Seventh-seeded Robert Morris features sophomore guard Isaiah Still (15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds per game) and senior guard Kavon Stewart (11.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg). Still is an all-NEC second-teamer this season; Stewart needs 12 points to reach 1,000 for his career.

The Colonials got hot in February (6-2) to earn a spot in the NEC tournament, then knocked off LIU Brooklyn, the No. 2 seed, 69-68 in the quarterfinals thanks Stewart's jumper with three seconds to play.

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Robert Morris will be gunning for another upset, while Mount St. Mary's looks to refocus and keep winning at home.

"These games in the playoffs are going to come down to the team that can execute the best," Christian said. "Just find a way through the rest of it. ... I like the guys I've got in that locker room. A lot of confident that, no matter what situations presents [themselves] through the course of the night, that we can find a way to get a win."

pat.stoetzer@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-7894

If You Go

What: NEC tournament semifinals

Who: Robert Morris (14-18) at Mount St. Mary's (17-15)

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When: Saturday at 2 p.m.

Where: Knott Arena, Emmitsburg


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