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Robert Morris rallies past North Florida in First Four

Mar 19, 2015 - 3:18 AM Dayton, OH ( - Lucky Jones scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, helping Robert Morris extend its season with an 81-77 come- from-behind victory over North Florida in an NCAA Tournament First Four matchup.

The Northeast Conference-champion Colonials overcame a 44-31 deficit early in the second period behind big efforts from Jones, Marcquise Reed and Rodney Pryor. Reed tallied 15 of his 19 points after the break, while Pryor had 12 in the second half and 20 on the night.

"I thought guys played unselfishly. I thought guys executed the offense," Colonials head coach Andy Toole remarked. "I thought they had a nice flow of when to take advantage of a break situation and when to step it out to run offense. When you do that, when you have good players who work together, you end up shooting a high percentage and obviously we did in the second half."

Robert Morris (20-14) also capitalized on sloppy play from the Ospreys, generating 21 points off 19 North Florida turnovers.

The Colonials earned a meeting with fourth-ranked Duke, the No. 1 seed of the South Region, Friday in Charlotte.

North Florida (23-12), making its NCAA Tournament debut after winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament, lost despite a career high-tying 28 points from Beau Beech. Jalen Nesbitt finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in defeat, with Dallas Moore posting 13 points and eight boards.

Robert Morris trailed 59-51 with under 10 minutes to play before its top trio sparked a pivotal 13-1 run. Consecutive 3-pointers from Pryor and Jones got the Colonials within one, and Pryor followed a successful pull-up from Jones with another trey to stake the Colonials to a 64-60 lead with 6:43 remaining.

"Usually when one of us hits shots like that it motivates the other person to get going. So when Rodney hit the shot that motivated Lucky to hit his next shot or that motivated me," Reed said. "When somebody steps up hits a big shot like that gives us so much momentum going forward."

After North Florida battled back to knot it at 66-66, Reed was fouled while converting a tough lefty layup with 3:49 to go. The freshman missed the free throw, but Jones alertly tipped in the miss before Pryor hit a fall-away on the Colonials' next possession to increase the margin to six.

Robert Morris turned it up on the defensive end down the stretch as well, holding the Ospreys without a field goal over the final 5 1/2 minutes. North Florida shot just 39.3 percent in the second half after hitting at a 58.3 percent clip in the first.

"They kind of switched to a matchup zone, man-to-man kind of," said Beech. "But we had clean looks the whole second half. I didn't think it was that difficult to get a shot. It was turnovers that killed us the most, because we were getting buckets and we just couldn't take care of the ball when we needed to."

The Ospreys appeared comfortably in front when Romelo Banks' 3-point play 1:22 into the second half had them owning a 44-31 advantage. Robert Morris then turned the tables with a 14-2 spurt, with Reed netting the final seven points and trimming the lead to 46-45 on a layup and free throw with 13:40 left.

North Florida's turnover problems had it down 21-14 with 8 1/2 minutes to play in the first half, but the Ospreys reversed momentum with a 19-4 surge fueled by their marksmanship from the perimeter.

Beech buried a 3-pointer to begin the tear, Nesbitt and Trent Mackey drained back-to-back triples shortly afterward and Moore fed Demarcus Daniels for an alley-oop dunk that had North Florida up 33-25 with 2:38 to go in the period.

Robert Morris, which missed eight of its last nine shots of the half, entered the break down 35-29. The Colonials' deficit was 12 when Beech knocked down treys on the Ospreys' initial two possessions out of the break.

North Florida started the contest on an 8-2 run, but a slew of giveaways enabled the Colonials to soon take the upper hand. Robert Morris scored 11 of the next 12 points, and Pryor led a 6-0 stretch later on that increased the lead to 19-12.

Beech helped keep the Ospreys, who turned it over nine times by the midway mark of the opening half, in it by pouring in 13 points over the first 13 minutes.

Game Notes

North Florida had been 18-4 when leading at halftime prior to Wednesday's result, while Robert Morris improved to 5-10 when trailing at the half ... The Colonials, who last appeared in the Big Dance in 2010, won for just the second time in nine all-time NCAA Tournament games. The Colonials defeated Georgia Southern in the 1983 First Round ... The NEC champion had lost in the First Four in each of the last two years, with LIU-Brooklyn falling to James Madison in 2013 and Mount St. Mary's losing to Albany last year ... Reed increased his RMU record for points by a freshman in a season to 507 ... Elijah Minnie finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Colonials.