Over the weekend, RMU fell to Northern Kentucky on back-to-back days at UPMC Events Center, extending its losing streak to four games.
These two games both saw senior AJ Bramah at his best, dominating the offensive end of the floor. Bramah, scoring 26 and 19 in the weekend’s games, is now averaging 21.5 points per game on the season, which ranks 12th in the entire nation. Leading the team in scoring by a wide margin, Bramah is also leading the entire Horizon League.
“AJ has been having a great season so far,” head coach Andy Toole said. “It’s been a challenge with some of the pauses thus far and it’s hard to get guys and keep guys in rhythm, but he has been able to really excel in spite of that, which is a credit to him and some of the work that he’s been putting in. We just need some more guys to join him. I thought we got good contributions from some other guys but not enough of them. We need some more guys that can come in and have a positive impact on the game and not come in and have us lose ground. We have to be able to go to our bench and get some energy from those guys so that we can give Jon, Dante, and AJ some rest when they need it and not feel like we’re losing ground. We need some guys to contribute from a point perspective, and defending and rebounding would help as well.”
In the second half of Friday night’s contest, RMU blew its two-point halftime lead and eventually lost by five. Northern Kentucky took advantage of some defensive lapses by the Colonials and shot 72% from the floor and 57% from 3-point range in the second frame.
“We have to understand and lock in defensively, be more detailed,” senior Jon Williams said after the game. “Obviously, its conference play, so, you know, the difference in games are five points, a couple of possessions. Two possession games, one possession games. So it was really about being the more detailed team.”
On Saturday, the Colonials once again went into halftime with the lead. However, after a strong second half from the Norse, the game went into overtime. In the extra period, RMU missed its first five field goals, giving away the game to NKU. In that game, the Colonials also received more than ten points apiece from Charles Bain, Kam Farris, Jon Williams, and Kahliel Spear. NKU was once again led by Trevon Faulker and Marques Warrick, who scored 18 and 17 points, respectively.
Throughout the year, Toole has been vocal about his struggle to find the right rotations this season. At times, 10-11 players have seen the floor for RMU during games. In large part due to lack of experience but also due to everything going on with COVID-19, the Colonials are looking for answers as they go.
“It’s hard because sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out who’s going to be engaged and who is going to contribute,” Toole said. “It’s a day-to-day thing. Sometimes this guy looks real locked in and he gets some more opportunities, and then the next day that guy doesn’t seem to be giving you a whole lot of production. Then you’ve got to put your finger in the dam and plug a hole and see if somebody else can give you a lift. So it’s just hard. We are trying to evaluate everything we can, whether it’s practice, whether it’s shoot-arounds, whether it’s warmups, to see who we think can contribute in a positive way. Obviously you can see some of the guys that came off our bench in short amounts of time led to some runs by Northern Kentucky.”
Through ten games, the Colonials now sit at 3-7 overall and with a 2-5 Horizon League record. Last season’s team, playing in the Northeastern Conference, finished with a 20-14 record while going an impressive 13-5 in conference.
“I don’t see much of a difference as far as basketball,” Williams said on the level of play in the Horizon League. “If you focus on defense, you can defend your butt off and get stops and win games. If you focus on offense, you might be able to outscore teams. It really comes down to who executes their formula the best and right now we are not executing our formula. When we execute our formula, we have times that we have been in the game and have opportunities to win games. When we try to outscore teams, we have not had much success other than the IPFW game, in which we shot amazing. As long as we stick to our formula and play our game, I think we will be ok. I don’t think the conference change is the difference. I think it’s just basketball. You’ve got to follow your formula and execute it down to a T.”
Looking ahead, RMU has eight games remaining on its schedule, all being conference matchups. Its next games will be in Dayton, Ohio where the Colonials will take on Wright State on Jan. 29 and 30. Friday’s game will tip off at 9 p.m. on ESPNU while Saturday’s will tip off at 7 p.m. with a broadcast yet to be determined.