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Robert Morris Basketball

Defense the Focus for RMU as Colonials Look to Flip Slow Start

Defense the Focus for RMU as Colonials Look to Flip Slow Start

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Times are tough right now in Moon Township. Andy Toole and the Robert Morris Colonials went home from the Buckeye state once again with a loss added to their season record. They now have eight of them on the season, something no one at RMU would have hoped to be the case until much later in the year.

On Saturday, the Colonials allowed double the amount of points (18) than they scored on their own (9) on the fast break. Wednesday night was even worse. The Penguins scored 26 points on the fast break against RMU, which accounted for 32% of their scoring total.

If Robert Morris cuts that number in half, they win the game with ease. Or on the flip side, if they find a way to score more than seven points on the fast break themselves, things might have been different.

Nonetheless, the Colonials transition defense has to improve. Turnovers will happen now and then. However, turnovers were not the reason for the disparity between RMU and YSU in that statistical category. The Penguins only scored 12 points off of turnovers. This means these fast break points are coming off of rebounds.

RMU’s next opponent is Florida Gulf Coast. While they might not be the highlight reel dunking machine that they were during the program’s magical sweet sixteen run in 2013, they will notice this trend.

“We’ve got to lock in in practice and maintain focus on the defensive end and keep talking,” guard Jalen Hawkins said.

FOUL LINE NOT FRIENDLY

Normally friends are people you are around often. You are comfortable in their presence. The relationship between RMU and the free throw line Wednesday night could be described as the exact opposite. The Colonials only reached the charity stripe nine times throughout the game. Whats even worse is the fact that they only made four of their nine attempts (44.4%). That is much worse than the low average of 62.9% average they entered the game with.

Overall, the misses didn’t lose them the game. Even if RMU went a perfect 9-9 they still fall to Youngstown State when it’s all said and done. It was their inability to get to the line combined with the success the Penguins had from it. YSU went 17-23 (73.9%) from the free throw line Wednesday night. That is the biggest difference between the two teams when one takes a quick glance over the box score.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

One thing you can’t say Toole’s team lacks is heart, or at least that was the case Wednesday night. Robert Morris played a tough 40 minutes of basketball. They drew three offensive fouls, dove after loose balls and refused to quit on multiple occasions when the game looked to be out of reach.

For starters, the Penguins opened the game on an 8-0 run. Right then and there, it would have made sense for the Colonials to get discouraged. A 2-7 team on the road, falling behind early and struggling to find open looks on offense. Yet, they didn’t.

RMU battled back, even taking the lead for a brief period of time in the first half. As player after player for YSU stepped up offensively throughout the game, Robert Morris found a way to hang around.

About mid way through the second half Youngstown State built a double digit lead. At that point in the contest, many teams would have given up. It was a Wednesday night, they had a long bus ride home and it was clear that a win was simply not in the cards.

But the Colonials didn’t go away. After trailing by 11 points with just 2:24 remaining, a strong full court press, a few key misses and some clutch shooting allowed them to battle back in the final minute, making the score 76-70 with just 45 seconds remaining.

“I think we played harder,” Toole said. “I think we played a little bit more together. It’s just frustrating when you can’t get stops. … I know our guys are going to continue to work and push to try and figure it out.”

Robert Morris was just one steal away from having a legitimate shot at pulling off a very impressive comeback. Unfortunately for them, that steal just never happened.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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