Thursday, February 7, 2013

Colonials Bouncing Back

It's been pretty hectic this past week or so for myself, so there hasn't been a lot of content coming and I apologize. Last night, Robert Morris won their second straight game, making it eight out of their last nine, by defeating St. Francis PA 60-48. The 48 points allowed was the lowest of the season and when you combine that with their recent play, the Colonials are beginning to resemble the defense of old (57 points to LIU?! Unheard of).

However, this season keeps getting crazier and crazier. Velton Jones was a no-go last night, resting his injured right shoulder after willing Robert Morris to a win Saturday in Long Island. Anthony-Myers Pate got the start and managed well... until he too left the game with an injury. Did I mention Mike McFadden has left the team? In a weird situation, McFadden has taken a, um, break (?) and no one is really sure if he'll be back, including head coach Andy Toole.

"He's a valued member of the team and just had some personal things that he kind of needed to take care of and figure out," Toole said. "We look forward to having him back. Obviously, it'll be when he's ready, but we're hopeful and his teammates are hopeful that it's as soon as possible."

The McFadden situation is certainly an odd one, and with Lijah Thompson out for the year recovering from a pre-season ACL injury and Vaughn Morgan leaving the team, the frontcourt is thin. Keith Armstrong logged 14 minutes last night but you can tell he's still working his way back from last years torn Achilles. Freshman Stephan Hawkins is going to be heavily relied on, which I'm okay with. Hawkins has improved greatly from the beginning of the season to now with everything, really. He is a problem (for opponents) defensively and knows his role on offense. To say he moves better without the ball compared to the beginning of the season would be an understatement. Still, a little depth for the big's would be nice, especially with how injuries have taken its toll on the team so far.

Our friend Andrew Chiappazzi from has a nice recap of last nights game. While we certainly encourage you give the whole thing a read, here is an interesting part from his story:

"It was okay. It could have been better," Lucky Jones said of the defense. "We slacked off a couple of plays, not finishing possessions by getting rebounds." 
Robert Morris held St. Francis to just 26.3 percent shooting in the first half as the Colonials built a 25-16 lead. Though Robert Morris' offense wasn't much better, the Colonials protected the ball (just seven turnovers for the game) and forced St. Francis into late shots and 16 total turnovers. 
St. Francis whittled the lead down in the second half as Dominique Major and Umar Shannon tried to shoot the Red Flash back into the game. But though the Red Flash shot 45.5 percent in the second half, Robert Morris maintained a lead largely due to the efforts of Jones and Anderson. Anderson scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half, while Jones was a perfect 3-of-3 from the floor and 13-of-13 from the free throw line. The free throw performance set a Sewall Center record for the most free throws without a miss by a Robert Morris player.
Toole suspending Lucky Jones after the Central Connecticut State loss at the beginning of conference play was the best thing that has happened to him and this team. Lucky had a career high 20 points and was 13-13 from the charity stripe. Like Chiappazzi mentioned, the Red Flash made a nice run at the start of the second half but I was impressed how the Colonials maintained composure, even after Myers-Pate went down. We saw solid defense and timely rebounding and buckets. Also, it was entertaining watch Karvel Anderson and Russell Johnson run the point from time to time. The Colonials got out-rebounded 44-28, but this has been and will continue to be a problem.

A few times last night we saw Toole switch to a 2-3 zone, which impressed me again. Opponents just don't seem to be able to penetrate the zone very well. Last Saturday against Long Island, we saw the 2-3 zone in that game more than all parts of the season combined. The whole game plan was brilliant.

Coron Williams is in a pretty bad shooting slump and RMU desperately needs for him to find his stroke. He played 31 minutes but only had three points in 1-7 shooting. While I do think he's established himself as more of a ball handler than in the past, he's passing up on good shots for tougher ones. He continually did it last night. You can get away with that against a two-win Red Flash squad but I'm more skeptical that it can work this Saturday against Wagner. Karvel Anderson can flat out score, but there needs to be more balance. We have yet to see a game where Williams and Anderson both get going, and when/if that happens, this team will hang 100 on someone easy.

These last seven games are going to be fun. Saturday's match-up against Wagner will be crucial, as they're finally getting healthy, are winners of four of their last five, and are 7-3 in conference, one game behind Robert Morris. RMU controls their own destiny the rest of the way: win out and you get home-court advantage for the NEC tournament. Saturday's tip-off is at 7:00 and the first 200 fans get a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Who doesn't want that! In all seriousness, I hope to see more fan support in the biggest home conference game of the year.

--Chris Cappella

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