The Robert Morris men’s basketball team enjoyed its 102-point effort Friday, a point total that according to coach Andy Toole, was perhaps a bit too much.
After challenging his team to improve defensively, RMU took steps in the wrong direction in an 87-82 loss to Purdue Fort Wayne on Saturday.
“I think we thought we could show up and win and obviously we’re nowhere near capable of that,” Toole said. “One of the biggest lessons from this is you have to show up ready to get it done. Even that doesn’t guarantee anything, but it gives you a good chance.”
The Horizon League has elected for teams to play each other on consecutive days in an effort to reduce travel and promote safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and this weekend was the first of nine such instances which provided a test for coaches and student-athletes alike.
Given the two tip-off times were 22 hours apart, there is less time to breakdown film, refine a scouting report and communicate these approaches to those on the court.
Toole clearly believed his team had not turned the page and faced an uphill climb from the minute the was tipped due to a lack of activity on the defensive end.
A film breakdown showed that Robert Morris was repeatedly being beat by baseline drives and Toole communicated that it had to improve, which it did not.
“We tried to talk about some adjustments and obviously it didn’t work out very well,” he explained. “We weren’t able to execute those well enough. We just were a step behind the whole first half or probably the first 25 minutes of the game. We were just a step behind everywhere and it led to great looks for them. It put us in a hole.”
When there is such a quick turnaround between games it becomes tougher to evaluate things such as body language, engagement and communication. Sometimes wins and losses given the timetable may dictate that, though shootarounds also can provide clues as to who is ready to compete, something Toole acknowledged.
With the pandemic, both adapting and learning become all the more critical, especially with Robert Morris having been shut down multiple times from practicing. Given a lack of practice, it is important to progress as a team but also balance that with trying to play catch up and have an information overload where the game can become more stressful and therefore less enjoyable.
As Toole said in between games over the weekend the coaches would watch film and the student-athletes would be in recovery. It can be hard to shake that as a team it arrives back in the locker room it feels it just left.
Following RMU’s season-opening win against Point Park, Toole was excited just to get film of his team facing an opponent and given the tale of two games it just faced, the 11th-year coach is hopeful for a positive response after evaluating tape.
“It can be huge if we’re in the right mindset to learn from it,” said Toole. “I think there are a lot of lessons that can be taught, we just have to be receptive to learning them as coaches and as players. What adjustments we need to make, what lineups we need to have out there. There are a lot of opportunities to show guys good and bad from their performances.”
Given the Horizon’s setup with the schedule, all teams will be in the same boat having to manage back-to-back contests which may test depth but also could lead to teams with the most creativity and ability to adjust becoming more successful.
So where does Robert Morris sit?
“It will be determined in the next few weeks how we respond,” Toole said. “If we learn a lesson of how to play 80 minutes of basketball over two days then we’ll say we learned a lot. If we continue to make some of the same mistakes, then we’ll keep being taught a lesson until we can figure it out.”