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Robert Morris Basketball

Colonials Miss Opportunities in Disappointing Loss to IUPUI



INDIANAPOLIS — For the first 32 minutes of Robert Morris’ 81-75 loss to IUPUI, multiple opportunities presented themselves for the Colonials to take control of the game.

They’d turned IUPUI big man Chris Osten into a non-factor, anchoring him to the bench with foul trouble. They’d built a five-point halftime lead, despite a cold shooting night. They’d spent the first half at the foul line, hitting 12 foul shots to the Jaguars’ four.

But despite all of that, Robert Morris couldn’t take advantage of its opportunities and shake its host — and over the final eight minutes, the Jaguars made the Colonials pay.

With IUPUI up one with 7:20 left, D.J. Jackson set up an Armon Jarrard layup, then hit two free throws to give IUPUI a five-point cushion. Amazingly, the Colonials never got even again, costing themselves a chance to earn a bye in the Horizon League tournament and seeing their four-game winning streak end on Thursday night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

“We were able to fight our way back and get the lead at the half, but then our defense just failed us,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “We didn’t continue to defend the way we needed to defend, obviously, as we gave up (52) points in that second half. We couldn’t get the stops and couldn’t get the rebounds we needed, and that was really the key.”

On the surface, the Colonials (15-16, 10-10 Horizon) seemed to have the ideal setup to stop the Jaguars (5-25, 2-17) once IUPUI lost Osten to foul trouble within the first few minutes. When the teams met in Moon Township, Osten scored 21 points, leading the IUPUI attack. But this time, Osten found himself carrying three fouls in six minutes of action, seemingly opening the door for RMU to pound the ball inside.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Colonials struggled to find their rhythm inside, shooting just 5-for-16 from two-point range in the first half even without Osten in the game. While the IUPUI forward sat, Robert Morris missed several makeable shots and threw away multiple possessions, keeping the Jaguars in the game.

That was all the opening that Jackson needed. With leading scorer Jlynn Counter struggling with his shot and Osten out of action, Jackson built on his showing a week ago at Oakland with 24 points and 12 rebounds, both career highs and his first double double.

“He’s an extremely good scorer, and he played his heart out (Thursday),” said Counter, who eventually scored 17 points but needed 16 shots to do it. “I didn’t shoot very well (Thursday), but he shot 7-for-11. We need efficiency like that; that just helps the cause.”

In contrast, the Colonials hurt their cause throughout the second half with cold shooting on offense and poor decision-making on defense. In the second half, Robert Morris ignited the Jaguars’ comeback with an ill-timed foul of Vincent Brady on a 3-pointer, allowing the guard to hit all three foul shots and keep IUPUI’s deficit manageable. Over the final seven minutes, the Colonials twice fouled IUPUI guard Armon Jarrard as he was making a 3-pointer, giving him two four-point play opportunities.

“There was a stretch in the second half where we gave up too many baskets, fouled a couple 3-point shooters, and that’s stuff that you can’t have happen,” Robert Morris forward Kahliel Spear said. “When you give up those plays, that’s what happens and it’s a bad feeling.”

Spear did most of the work on offense for the Colonials, scoring 27 points to lead all scorers. But Robert Morris couldn’t keep pace because nobody could hit a 3-pointer in the second half. While the Jaguars went a solid 5-for-12 from deep and cashed in another three points on Brady getting fouled shooting a 3, the Colonials went 0-for-9 from behind the arc in the second half. Rather than build off the lead and attack the basket, the Colonials settled for longer shots and then couldn’t cash in the rebound, allowing IUPUI to gradually swing the game’s momentum to their side.

The loss means Robert Morris will play in the first round of the Horizon League tournament, which starts Feb. 28. The one silver lining is that the Colonials will play at home against either IUPUI (0-14 on the road) or Green Bay (1-16 away) when the tournament opens, but that paled in comparison to the lost opportunity, a fitting result after a game that proved full of missed chances for RMU.

“I thought there were times where we had opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of, and we missed a lot of shots at the rim,” Toole said. “That hurt us, but it goes back to the defense. Seventy-five points is more than we average but giving up 81 certainly is not a recipe for us to be successful.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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