PITTSBURGH, Pa. – After a daunting first week of travel, Robert Morris finally played in front of its fans last night, and although it was technically a road game, the Colonials probably didn’t care.
Using a late run, Robert Morris beat Duquesne for the second straight season, 66-59, at the AJ Palumbo Center Sunday night.
The Colonials have now won seven of the last eight meetings against the Dukes; all coming under head coach Andy Toole.
Robert Morris won the game because of a few factors: depth, rebounding, and ability to clamp down defensively during key stretches of the contest.
– With Jordan Robinson battling foul trouble and Eric James going down to a knee injury in the first half, Duquesne was basically playing with a six-man rotation in the second half. Fatigue was a factor late in the game, and Robert Morris forced the exhausted Dukes’ into careless turnovers and bad shots because of it.
– As mentioned in this space several times before, Duquesne lacks experience and depth on the interior, especially with 6-foot-8 Chas Brown missing time due to an injury. Robert Morris was able to exploit this mismatch with the combination of freshmen Kolby Thomas and Malik Petteway.
RECAP: Balanced Effort Lifts Robert Morris To First Victory Of 2017-18 | Defense, Rebounding Pace Colonials In 66-59 Win at Duquesne.
— RMU Basketball (@RMUMBasketball) November 20, 2017
Petteway came off the bench to record a double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes of action. The Colonials held a 21-6 advantage on the offensive glass, and Petteway was the main contributor, pulling down eight offensive boards. He did a fantastic job of getting position and consistently grabbing loose rebounds. It was his second double-double in the last three games, and he’s quickly gaining Toole’s trust.
Thomas was just as active as Petteway, finishing two rebounds shy of a double-double—10 points and eight rebounds. His highlight putback dunk in the first half was jaw-dropping. Watching it live, it appeared his head was two feet above the rim.
On a side note, Thomas has the physical measurements NBA GM’s look for in wing players in today’s space and pace era. Phenomenal athlete. His development will be fun to watch.
– Dachon Burke also snagged 10 rebounds from the guard position—he primarily played on the wing. One of the two most experienced players on the roster—Matty McConnell being the other—it’s only fitting Burke made several key plays late for the Colonials.
– Looking at the stat sheet, McConnell had a solid night, but his defense on Duquesne’s Mike Lewis II cannot be overstated. Lewis only had two or three open looks all night and failed to score a point. McConnell’s ability to deny seemed to wear on Lewis II as the game progressed into the later stages. Lewis II badly missed on his last three-point attempt, failing to even hit iron.
McConnell also made several veteran plays, including a steal and basket with 1:13 left that essentially sealed the Colonials’ win.
– Duquesne’s guard trio of Mike Lewis II, Tarin Smith, and Renee Castro-Caneddy combined for 57 of the Dukes’ 71 points against VMI. They had just 22 points against the Colonials.
Toole challenged his backcourt to force the Dukes’ guards to shoot a low percentage and the Colonials answered. Lewis II, Smith, and Castro-Caneddy struggled to find space all night against Robert Morris’ pressure and finished 6-23 from the field.
HIGHLIGHTS: Dukes Fall to Robert Morris 66-59 on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/lixoiP815H
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) November 20, 2017
– Robert Morris was able to build a first half lead and string together a game-deciding 14-5 run in the second half because its defense.
The Colonials held Duquesne without a field goal for five minutes at one point in the opening half and built an eight-point lead. They were even better in the second half, going eight-plus minutes without surrendering a basket.
After giving up 170 points in their first two games, the Colonials have yielded just 124 in their last two games, a trend Toole would like to see continue.
– Tydus Verhoeven almost single-handedly kept Duquesne in the game during the second half. His presence on the defensive end—seven blocks—prevented several easy baskets.
Head coach Keith Dambrot said in his post-game remarks Verhoeven is the best rim protector he’s coached since Zeke Marshall at Akron. Marshall, a 7-foot native of Mckeesport, finished with 368 career blocks for the Zips. Not a bad comparison.
– Duquesne sophomore Kellon Taylor was in uniform last night but did not play. On loan from the Dukes’ football team, Taylor now can turn his focus to basketball. How soon Taylor contributes depends on his learning curve Dambrot said afterwards. With a broad, 6-foot-5 frame, Taylor’s size and athleticism was needed last night.
– One final note, if Toole is able to keep everyone in uniform and Duquesne’s transfers can make an immediate impact, next year’s rivalry game is going to be a lot of fun. And I’m guessing it will draw more than just a local audience.