Colonials and Blue Devils mix it up in NCAA Tourney

Mar 20, 2015 - 2:58 PM Charlotte, NC ( - The 16th-seeded Robert Morris Colonials advanced past North Florida in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, and now have a date set against the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils Friday in the South Region's second round at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The winner of this clash will advance to take on the victor in the later game between San Diego State and St. John's.

Robert Morris captured the Northeast Conference crown by defeating St. Francis-Brooklyn in a tightly contested battle, 66-63. Then the Colonials squared off against North Florida in the first round of the national tourney, and beat the Ospreys by an 81-77 margin. The Colonials are in their eighth NCAA Tournament all-time, while the victory over UNF was the team's second ever in the national postseason.

Duke is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament field. The Blue Devils, who have won four national championships with the most recent coming in 2010, are in their 39th tournament. They'll be looking to bounce back from an exit in the ACC Tournament's semifinal round - a 74-64 loss to Notre Dame.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Robert Morris and Duke on the basketball court.

Robert Morris traveled to Dayton to take on the Atlantic Sun Conference champion North Florida Ospreys in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday. The Colonials found themselves down by six, 35-29, at halftime, but used a second-half surge to make a comeback behind 55.2 percent shooting from the floor. Lucky Jones netted 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the team, followed closely by Rodney Pryor, 20 points and Marcquise Reed's 19. Elijah Minnie finished things off by tallying a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Robert Morris held the Ospreys to a mere 39.3 percent shooting in the second half.

It's been a strong year offensively for the NEC champions, who are netting 69.4 ppg on 44.6 percent shooting heading into the matchup against the top- seeded Blue Devils. Pryor leads the charge on the offensive end with 15.4 ppg, followed by Reed's 14.9 ppg and Jones's 14.5 ppg. Jones, who averages a team- best 6.0 rpg, and Minnie (team-leading 36 blocked shots) will have the tall task of trying to defend possibly the nation's best player underneath the basket in Jahlil Okafor. Defensively Robert Morris struggled a bit this year, as the team allows 68.0 ppg.

Notre Dame was known all season long for its strong offensive game, and that's exactly what the Fighting Irish used to get past Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals. The Irish connected on an even 50 percent of their shots from the floor, and limited the Blue Devils to just 3-of-17 shooting from 3-point range. Okafor led the way for Duke, netting 28 points with eight rebounds. He was aided by Justise Winslow's 11-point, 11-rebound double-double, and by 10 points and five assists from Tyus Jones. The freshmen-led Blue Devils shot 45 percent from the floor in the loss.

Okafor was named the ACC Player of the Year, and for good reason. The big man is averaging 17.7 ppg and 9.0 rpg to lead the Blue Devils in both categories headed into Friday's second-round matchup. Okafor is the first freshman in league history to claim the Player of the Year honor, and just the ninth freshman out of a major conference to win the distinction. Quinn Cook (15.7 ppg), Winslow (12.3 ppg) and Jones (11.6 ppg) round out a group of double- digit scorers for Duke, which converts 50.2 percent of its field goals for 80.6 ppg. The team gives up 65.6 ppg on the defensive end.

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