Bryant news release...
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Behind four double-digit point scorers and stellar shooting from the field, the Bryant University men's basketball team clinched a spot in the 2017 Northeast Conference Tournament with an 81-73 victory over Robert Morris Thursday night at the Chace Athletic Center.
The win, coupled with a Central Connecticut loss, secures the Bulldogs (10-18, 7-8 NEC) their fourth NEC Tournament berth after missing postseason play a year ago. The win also marks the first time Bryant has topped the Colonials (10-18, 6-9) in Smithfield in seven tries.
Bryant shot better than 50 percent for the second-straight contest, going 26-of-51 (.510) Thursday night with a 7-of-21 mark from long range. Sophomore guard Nisre Zouzoua (Brockton, Mass.) and freshman counterpart Adam Grant (Franklin, Va.) led the way with 19 points apiece, combining for five trifectas and an 11-of-15 mark from the free throw line. Junior swingman Bosko Kostur (Melbourne, Australia) and sophomore forward Marcel Pettway (North Providence, R.I.) also chipped in 16 points each.
Zouzoua added a career-high eight assists to his impressive line, while rookie Ikenna Ndugba (Boston, Mass.) paced the Black and Gold with nine rebounds (4 assists, 2 steals). The Bulldogs edged the Colonials on the glass, 37-35.
Isaiah Still (7 rebounds) paced the contest with 22 points for Robert Morris, including a 7-of-10 mark from the free throw line. Aaron Tate picked up the only double-double of the night with 12 points and a game-leading 14 boards, while Matty McConnell added 10 points to round out double-figure Colonial scorers. RMU shot 35.5 percent from the floor (22-62) and went 7-of-27 from beyond the arc, snagging 14 steals.
In a contest that saw 50 fouls between the sides, both teams finished with 22 points from the line, while the Colonials were the beneficiaries of 23 points off 22 Bryant turnovers. Thursday's visitors also capitalized on 15 second-chance points to Bryant's seven, while the Black and Gold dominated in the paint, 30-18.
A 12-0 Colonials run over 4:15 early in the first put the visitors up, 12-2, but the Bulldogs responded with their own 7-0 spurt to pull within three, 15-11, after a Hunter Ware (Powder Springs, Ga.) fastbreak layup.
Back-to-back treys from Kostur and Zouzoua closed the margin to 23-21 in the visitors' favor at the 5:39 mark – both shots were assisted by Ndugba – and Grant would knot the score from the free throw line minutes later.
A slam by senior bigman Dan Garvin (Bethel, Conn.) gave the hosts their first lead of the night, 25-23, out of the final media timeout of the half, and Grant would break free to beat the buzzer with a layup to send the Bulldogs into the locker room with a 32-27 halftime edge.
That lead would fluctuate little through the first 10 minutes of the second, with Bryant leading by as many as nine and as few as four. But a dagger three from Grant put the Bulldogs up 10 for the first time, 58-48, with 9:21 on the clock.
Despite strong full court pressure late in the half, Robert Morris wouldn't trim the lead to less than seven from the 10:16 mark until the two-minute mark, when Still dropped in 1-of-2 from the free throw line for a 71-65 margin.
The Colonials would continue to apply pressure on defense and get to the line on their own offensive possessions, forcing Pettway out of the game with 1:29 still to go on a blocking foul that would close the score to 73-69, thanks to two Clive Allen (8 points) freebies.
A second-chance dunk by Tate would make it a one-possession game, 74-71, with 1:17 left on the clock, but the Colonials would get no closer as the Bulldogs hit 7-of-8 from the line in the final minute to secure the 81-73 victory.
Bryant will now look to jockey for seeding in the upcoming NEC Tournament, closing out a four-game homestand with a 4 p.m. matchup against Saint Francis U. Saturday at the Chace Athletic Center.