Thursday, January 31, 2013

Colonials fall to Terriers, frustration growing

I’m going to be honest, it took me a while to cool off from this one. I'm still mad about tonight's loss and you should be too. 

Robert Morris has been a team that’s prided itself on scrappy wins with a tenacious defense. This year there has clearly been no evidence of that.
Tonight’s ten point loss at St. Francis Brooklyn has prompted this knee-jerk reaction of an article, which will all be forgotten with an upset win Saturday at Long Island. However, there are some glaring concerns that the Terriers exposed yet again.

Robert Morris lost to St. Francis Brooklyn 71-61, in a game that was probably closer than what the score reflects. Velton Jones, clearly the most important player on this squad, went down with a re-aggravated shoulder injury a mere two minutes into the game. Lucky Jones played, but you’d have to believe he wasn’t one hundred percent. SFC (BKN) also defeated RMU last year, so maybe they’ve simply got RMU’s number. Maybe RMU wasn’t completely focused, with a huge game against Long Island looming Saturday, I simply don’t know.

All of the above suggestions are just simply excuses though. This team is too talented and experienced to be playing this inconsistently. St. Francis is by no means an offensive juggernaut, ranking sixth in the NEC in points per game, but I thought Robert Morris looked pretty soft in the frontcourt. Hawkins is a young kid still learning the system, but Mike McFadden with no rebounds? That’s inexcusable. He did a pretty poor job against Jalen Cannon too, who went for 16 points and eight rebounds. Russell Johnson more than made up for it on the boards (he had 15 rebounds) but had questionable shot selection on a 4-12 shooting night, including a forced three point attempt that was way off and pretty much sealed the game.

Coron Williams flat-out needs to step up, whose inconsistency mirrors that of the team in a lot of ways. We know Williams can ball; he’s had multiple games with point totals in the upper twenties and was named in the top 40 shooting guards in the preseason. Tonight however, Williams had five points in a game where Velton Jones went down early. That just can’t happen. As a matter of fact, Williams is only averaging five points per game his last five games. I think part of the reason we’re seeing his lack of points is he’s in more of a ball handling role, but you’d be foolish to say he’s not in a slump that he needs to break.  

There’s a bigger problem here, too. This team has yet to get dirty, D up, and grind out a win. This isn’t something I’m conjuring out of mid-air (although it’s not too hard to see); the Colonials are 0-8 in games they’re trailing at halftime in. You can blame tonight’s loss all you want on #2 not being out there, because it certainly changed the game, but more than once RMU cut the lead to four or five late and couldn’t get over the hump. That’s a time you have to bear down on defense and get a stop, but time and time again we’ve seen they can’t and couldn’t again tonight.

I thought the Lijah Thompson injury was going to hurt RMU, but not as bad as it is now. With Vaughn Morgan gone and Keith Armstrong still not completely back from off-season surgery, the frontcourt is thin but also struggles to defend the rim. Where’s the pride?

My fear is this team doesn’t have that “it” factor. I’m not sure if anything has been done for me to think otherwise. Per the commentators in the last game, RMU ranks eight in the NEC in points allowed per game. There are times when this team locks down, and times where the guys look lost and rotations look slow. With a mere nine games remaining, shouldn’t a team with this much talent be more consistent?

I’m probably overreacting to a tough road loss without the team’s best player, but someone has to say this, right? This is supposed to be “the Golden Era” of Robert Morris basketball, it’s time to start defending like it.

--Chris Cappella

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