It was a tough weekend for Robert Morris. The season opened with a one point loss at Penn on Friday and a 62 point beatdown in Cincinnati a few days later.
The first two games had its ups and downs. Obviously, there was much more positive that came from Friday’s opener. Robert Morris shot the ball really well, defended well at times and showed toughness being able to dig out of a 17-point deficit.
There wasn’t a whole lot to hang your hat on after Sunday’s loss. RMU played well for about nine minutes before that game got ugly. Cincinnati was a learning experience in different ways.
To start off, Cinncy put on a defensive clinic. They were one of the country’s best defenses last year, and showed why. The Bearcats installed a full court press for most of the game and didn’t let up. RMU had there fair share of turnovers because they couldn’t pass halfcourt or turned the ball over in the face of pressure.
Let’s also face it: losing by 62 points is embarrassing. Cincinnati is really good, but 62 points better? No way. Head coach Andy Toole hinted that he hopes an attitude adjustment comes from the beatdown.
“Our struggles on offense led to our struggles on defense. Honestly, I don’t care if we lose by 62, 72 or 82, but there’s a certain way you need to do it. We need guys to step up and get frustrated and get angry and change it. As a coaching staff we’ll work to do that,” Toole said.
This group genuinely does have the feel of a team that is much more ego-free from last year. I hope that they’ll turn that attitude up even more and get mean and nasty. If not, they’ll have a few more beatdowns like that.
Some positives: Rodney Pryor is just so, so good. He dropped 28 on Penn and 17 at Cincinnati Sunday. Pryor is the centerpiece, now a few more pieces need to fall in place around him. I think they will.
One of those guys could be freshman Isaiah Still. Still scored 11 on 4-8 shooting Sunday after a shaky opener. Still is going to be asked to do a lot, especially defensively and rebounding. If he can score a little to go with that, he’ll already be a more improved version of David Appolon.
One guy that did not have the best weekend was Kavon Stewart. He shot 1-5 from the field, 1-2 from three and 8-15 from the line. 15 free throws attempted is a GREAT number, but he can’t be a 53 percent free throw shooter all season. Also, there are going to be times where he won’t be taking a lot of free throw attempts every game. How does he respond? Because right now, he looks lost driving to the basket.
Matty McConnell showed he could be a pretty good ball handling option for the Colonials, but he left in the first half of the Cincinnati game with what appeared to be a left shoulder dislocation. He could miss a few weeks, so that means more court time for Jordan Lester and Steven Whitley. While the McConnell injury itself is unfortunate, getting Whitley and Lester more court time could be beneficial down the road.
To be frank, the concerns I had at the before the season are still there, but a weekend of basketball wasn’t going to change that anyway. I still think this is going to be a really good team. When they played Penn, a team much more similar in size and skill level, they competed well. Time will show how good Cincinnati is (really good). Was it demoralizing to lose in such ugly fashion? Yes, but the end goal is to peak in February and March, not November.