CHICAGO — After seeing its last three games postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, Robert Morris returned to the court on Friday in Chicago, where they fell to UIC by a score of 67-53.
After hanging around for the majority of the first half, RMU failed to cut into the nine-point halftime deficit in the second frame. As a team, RMU went 18 for 60 from the field, a 30% mark.
Defensively, the Colonials struggled to contain UIC from downtown. The Flames were in fact on fire on Friday, shooting a solid 41.2% from 3-point range including four triples from Jamie Ahale and two from Michael Diggins.
After a strong 20-point, 14-rebound performance in his most recent game against Milwaukee, senior forward AJ Bramah once again stuffed the stat sheet for the Colonials, earning his second straight double-double and tenth of his career. He finished the game with 19 points and 14 rebounds and seemed to be the most confident player on the floor with the ball in his hands. In last year’s matchup in Chicago, Bramah scored 11 points in 35 minutes as the Colonials fell to the Flames 72-62.
“I thought he [AJ] did a really nice job on the glass obviously,” RMU head coach Andy Toole told Pittsburgh Sports Now after the game. “I thought he missed. a couple of shots tonight that he typically would have finished. I thought he took a couple quick ones early and then kind of settled in. He used his energy and his athleticism to create free throw opportunities, foul opportunities, stuff around the rim. I know he will go back and watch some of the ones he missed and try to be a little more efficient tomorrow.”
RMU also received solid performances from Kahliel Spear and freshman Trayden Williams, who looked very comfortable running the offense and made some eye-opening moves and passes. Both of those players finished with eight points and five boards apiece.
“He has great quickness with the ball and he can get into the paint and I think anytime you’re in the paint I think good things can happen,” Toole said about Williams. “We would like him to be aggressive coming off ball screens and in transition and he really puts a lot of pressure on the defense and so we want to continue to encourage him to do that.”
One of the Colonials’ weaknesses this year has been their 3-point shooting, and that held true Friday night. As a team they shot 1 for 14 from outside, a horrid 7%.
UIC was led in scoring by Diggins as well as fellow forward Braelen Bridges. Diggins finished with 16 points and six rebounds, while Bridges finished with 11 points. Playing mostly on the low-block, the 6-foot-10 redshirt junior Bridges dominated the inside during the first half. The Colonials tried to guard him with 6-foot-8 Charles Bain and 6-foot-7 Spear, but struggled to contain him.
“His catches were just way too deep,” Toole said. “He was getting catches with two feet in the paint. He’s a big, strong physical guy with great touch. I think we have got to do a better job of not allowing the catch to be as deep as it was and try and make him start a little further away from the basket.”
With the win, UIC improved 6-4 on the season and now owns a 3-2 record in Horizon League play.
The Colonials will look to improve on their 3-4 record on Saturday as they once again take on the Flames. After the game, Toole spoke about what he would like to see his team improve on.
“I think we’ve got to do a better job from a defensive standpoint with our transition defense,” he said. “I think some of that comes down to how well you play offense. We had a couple of possessions that we would like back offensively. We’ve got to be better tomorrow.”
Saturday’s game between RMU and UIC will tip-off at at 6 p.m on ESPN3.