Lucky Jones scored 21 points, including a key free throw, Rodney Pryor had 20 and Marcquise Reed 19 to lead Robert Morris back from a 14-point second-half deficit and beat North Florida 81-77 Wednesday night in the First Four.
The Colonials (20-14), who won the Northeast conference to get into the field as a No. 16 seed, now will meet top-seeded Duke in the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Friday in Charlotte.
As the final seconds ticked off, jubilant fans chanted, “We want Duke! We want Duke!”
Elijah Minnie added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Colonials, who scored 21 points off North Florida’s 19 turnovers.
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Beau Beech finished with 28 points for the Ospreys (23-12), champs of the Atlantic Sun tournament, but he didn’t have a field goal over the final 11 minutes, 18 seconds. Jalen Nesbitt added 14 points and Dallas Moore 13 for North Florida, making its first trip to the NCAA tournament.
Beech, who had 13 at the break, hit two 3s to start the second half, increasing an eight-point advantage at the break to 41-27.
But the Colonials, who failed to score for 4:31 of the first half, turned the tables on the Ospreys. During an 11-0 run, they kept North Florida off the board for 4:44.
From then on, the game was an end-to-end battle.
Robert Morris took its first lead of the half on Jones’ jumper from the top of the key with 7:29 left.
With the score tied later, Reed – a freshman – drove the lane and spun in a left-handed layup and was fouled with 3:49 left. He missed the free throw, but Jones was there to tip in the miss for a 70-66 lead.
Pryor then added a 15-foot jumper and Kavon Stewart hit a free throw to push the lead to 73-66 with two minutes left.
The Ospreys drew within 78-76 with 10 seconds left on two free throws by Trent Mackey, but Stewart stepped to the line and made both to seal the win.
After Beech’s foul shot, Jones – the Colonials’ third-leading scorer who comes off the bench – hit a free throw with less than a second left to end the Ospreys’ hopes.
Mississippi 94, Brigham Young 90: Stefan Moody scored 26 points and led the Rebels’ comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit to eliminate BYU on Tuesday night.
Mississippi (21-12) trailed until Moody led a 15-2 run midway through the second half. He hit a late 3-pointer that helped finish off the tournament’s first big comeback. The Rebels will play sixth-seeded Xavier on Thursday afternoon in the East Region.
BYU (25-10) pulled off the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history in Dayton three years ago, rallying from a 25-point first-half deficit to a 78-72 victory over Iona. This time, the Cougars couldn’t hold the big lead.
Tyler Haws, BYU’s all-time leading scorer, had 33 points.