Robert Morris played Milwaukee at the UPMC Events Center on Thursday night and were able to enjoy a comfortable victory, 77-53.
The Colonials’ (4-16 overall, 2-9 Horizon) win over the Panthers (7-14 overall, 5-7 Horizon) is the biggest in the Horizon League since joining to start the 2020-21 season and their biggest in conference win since a 94-62 win over Wagner in 2020 in the NEC. Colonials head coach Andy Toole noted how great it was to have such a big win, and that the entire team was excited and happy to have performed so well.
“Probably our best performance of the season on the defensive side in terms of consistency,” Toole said. “For a full 40 minutes, I thought we made multiple second efforts a lot of times. Guys guarding the ball better, I thought we did a good job. They’re a really good team in the paint. They got some opportunities in there, but I thought for the most part I thought we did a good job of standing up and being strong in that paint and really guarding the half court. Credit to our guys for the effort they made on that side of the floor and just hopefully it can be something we can build on.”
Robert Morris started off on a 9-3 run through the first four minutes, thanks to two 3-pointers from guards, sophomore Enoch Cheeks and junior Michael Green III, and a converted and-one opportunity from senior forward Kahliel Spear.
Milwaukee responded with an 8-0 run from the first to the second media timeout to get a 11-9 lead. First-year guard Devin Hancock led the Panthers with four points on the run from a 3-pointer and a foul shot.
The Colonials were able to establish a sizable lead, 24-13, as they went on a 13-2 run over the next four minutes.
They switched up their offensive strategy from shooting more from behind the arc to spreading the ball around and looking to find some shots from mid-range or in the paint.
Spear was able to flourish in this change, scoring six points to lead RMU during the run, with senior forward Jaron Williams right behind him with four points.
The Colonials continued their good play throughout the rest of the half, forcing the Panthers to take bad shots and continuing to score on offense, outscoring the Panthers, 15-10 to take a 39-23 lead at halftime. The 16 point lead at the half was the biggest in conference play this year for the Colonials.
Junior forward Justin Winston led RMU during this time with six points on a 3-pointer and a converted and-one opportunity.
Two big parts of Robert Morris’ success in the first half came from foul shooting, a perfect 7-for-7, and rebounds, with a 29-19 advantage in that category over Milwaukee.
Spear continued to lead the Colonials throughout the second half, scoring 14 points and leading his team with 25 points, a career high, in the game.
“Definitely we’re excited,” Spear said about his team’s performance against the Panthers. “We really believe in ourselves, like coach said. We know that we have something good going here. We’ve played all the top teams in the conference really close. With the exception of the Purdue-Fort Wayne game, every game we’ve played in the conference has been close. So we know that we can hang with anybody and as long as we stay focused and on the right path, continue to build and not settle on anything, I think we’ll be able to show that as consistent as we have in the past week.”
RMU also improved their shooting in the second half from the first half, shooting 15-for-29, 51.7% compared to 14-for-40, 35%.
Milwaukee were without one of their key players in first-year guard Patrick Baldwin Jr. Baldwin Jr. led his team to victory the last time these two teams met and scored a career high 26 points.
Toole also said that there was no update on sophomore guard Kam Ferris on when he will return to the team as he has missed three consecutive games.
“Again, we’ve gone to some of the shorter quarantines, but some of that is based on symptoms and how you’re feeling and stuff like that,” Toole said of Ferris. “So it’s just kind of based on how healthy he feels and that’s another thing that just adds to some of the confusion and frustration at times because there’s not always that continuity…”
Robert Morris will take on Green Bay in their next game this Saturday, Jan. 29, at home at 7 p.m. hoping to start a winning streak.