St. John's burned by Robert Morris' hot start

The St John's bench reacts as time expires

The St John's bench reacts as time expires in the second half Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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For visiting Robert Morris, the three-point line was the Arc de Triumph.

The Colonials made a sweet 16 of their 32 shots from downtown, built a lead as large as 25 points and held off a late St. John's rally to defeat the Red Storm, 89-78, Tuesday night in an opening-round game of the NIT played at Carnesecca Arena.

Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones were a devastating duo. Anderson made 9 of 15 from beyond the arc and scored 38 points, while Jones was 6-for-12 on threes with 25 points. Jones was part of a double-technical scenario involving JaKarr Sampson about four minutes into the game that turned into a five-point play and a 16-2 lead for the Colonials (22-13), from which St. John's never recovered.

"He blocked my shot with a good hustle play. Then I made a three and just looked at him. I guess he got upset," Jones said. Jones was fouled by Sampson on the play and also was awarded two technical foul shots. He made two of three. On the next Colonials possession, Jones was fouled on a trey and made all three foul shots for a 19-2 advantage.

"After their hot start, you saw a dip in our energy and ultimately the game was lost right there," said reserve Max Hooper, who provided a spark by sinking six of 12 three-pointers for 18 points. In fact, the one area the No. 1-seed Red Storm (20-13) matched the No. 8 Colonials was from beyond the arc. St. John's made 16 of 37, including four in the final minute by Jamal Branch (22 points) that made the score respectable.

"Robert Morris came out and beat us to the punch in every phase of the game," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "We didn't have the verve, purpose, pluck and energy necessary to win at this stage of the season."

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Anderson buried a three-pointer from the right corner to put Robert Morris ahead 74-51 with 7:07 left. That's when St. John's -- finally -- came alive. The Red Storm went on a 15-0 run, with Hooper sinking two threes and Orlando Sanchez and Sampson converting back-to-back dunks that cut the deficit to 74-66 with 3:28 left.

Amazingly, the Red Storm was back in it. But Anderson struck again, with a dagger three and a pair of free throws for a 79-68 lead with 1:09 left.

The final minute featured Branch's long-range shots and a Colonial parade to the foul line. "We didn't give it our all until the last seven minutes," Branch conceded.

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