Robert Morris fell to Bucknell 81-76 in its home opener night. Chris Mueller hits you with his five observations, with quotes:
PUT DOWN THE SHOVELS
As we’ve seen in all three appearances to start the season, the Colonials haven’t quite figured out how to start games like they finish them.
Okay, the Cincinnati loss was different. Robert Morris was taking on a more talented team in a higher conference that could potentially end the season in the top 25 polls. We won’t count that one.
But similar to the Penn game, Robert Morris came out of the gate dazed and confused. There was zero flow to the offense, lacking communication on the defensive end and very little urgency overall.
Against beatable teams, the Colonials can’t afford to dig themselves in these gaping holes. This team needs to grind it out to win. That takes a more consistent 40 minutes.
Nine minutes into the first half, the Colonials trailed 23-8. They trimmed the gap to eight by halftime, and eventually had a chance to take the lead late. In the second half, Robert Morris outscored Penn and Bucknell a combined 92-77.
“I think it’s up to that starting group to do a better job of getting us going in the right direction,” head coach Andy Toole said. “It’s got to be all five of them. That’s an experienced starting group for the most part. They know what it takes to win games. They understand how hard it is to win games. For them to get out to the starts they’re getting out to, it’s not the way its supposed to be.”
We’re talking about a 2-1 team without the slow starts.
If you watched the game, Robert Morris did, at times, put on a show. Kavon Stewart balled out. Elijah Minnie showed his Kevin Love-esque three-point range off the pick and roll. Isaiah Still showed progression in increased action. Even Andre Frederick looked to be headed in the right direction, even if it’s just baby steps at this point.
But every time the Colonials did something positive, something negative soon followed. One step forward, two steps back. Two steps forward, three steps back. Whatever you wan’t to call it, they repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.
For example, Robert Morris was down 74-63 with just over five minutes remaining after climbing out of the woodwork from the early deficit. Still sunk a three off an assist from Jordan Lester, and Steven Whitley quickly forced a turnover and dished it to Lester for fastbreak points. But because Robert Morris was slow getting back in transition, Bucknell inbounded it and immediately found Dom Hoffman on the other end of the floor for an easy layup.
Elijah Minnie stuffed Hoffman in the paint on Bucknell’s next possession, but Stephen Morris got an easy layup off the offensive rebound because Billy Giles was completely out of position.
A common theme around the team has been that they’re young, and with youth is going to come mistakes. But as Toole clarifies in the quote below, being young isn’t always an excuse. (Exhibit A of why he’s the man)
“Those new guys never want to be new guys on offense,” Toole said. “Everybody remembers how to shoot, how to break their man down and go 1 on 1. But then on the defensive side of the floor, Coach, I’m just a young guy. Well, if you want to responsibility and you want the playing time, you have to be able to handle the accountability on both ends of the floor.”
That was the case all throughout the second half. Good followed by bad.
STILL THE ONE?
Yes, I just referenced the 1973 Orleans song.
You can’t help but become intrigued based off the early progression of Isaiah Still. After a quiet Robert Morris debut against Penn, the freshman has put together two solid efforts. He ironically went 4-8 shooting against both Cincinnatti and Bucknell.
He finished with 13 points and five boards in 35 minutes of action starting in place of Matty McConnell. I thought he was too hesitant offensively in the first half. There were a few times he passed up shot from deep that he was unsure on. Don’t think, just do.
Rodney Pryor got on him about it a few times. He’ll learn to take advantage of those open opportunities. Injuries are never a good thing, but with McConnell out for the immediate future, Still has a golden opportunity to come into his own in the next few weeks.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT DRE
Andre Frederick put together his best outing of the young season, and quite possibly the most consistent of his time at Robert Morrisnight.
10 points and three boards on the stat line isn’t that impressive. Though Frederick is a guy where consistency’s been a major issue with him. I’d look at him as a project. Last year, he came off the bench and average single-digit minutes. The most he was known for was his red hair during postseason play.
Rocking blue hair this time around, Frederick has been thrust into the starting lineup with Aaron Tate out. Yes, he still has a lot to work on, especially defensively where he was outmuscled a couple times by Nana Foulland. Going 5-7 from the field with a couple two-handed slams and an offensive rebound is a positive sign for him.
From my counting, he only missed one layup. Maybe two. Progress?
“I thought [Andre] played really hard in good stretches,” Toole said. “We told him to just play as many possessions as you can in a row at the right speed. We watched in the beginning of the game, it was a minute half in and he was exhausted Well, that’s what you have to do. And then hopefully a minute and a half becomes two, and two and a half becomes three. .He showed some really good signs. There’s still some things he can clean up, no doubt. It was definitely a step in the right direction.”
Tate left the game after registering just five minutes in the first half. His lower body injury may put him out a bit longer than originally anticipated.
“He’s just beat up. A tribute to Aaron is how hard he goes,” Toole said. “I think he might of overdid it a little bit. We’ve got to dial it down and hopefully be able to get him back in the swing of things.”
BALL OUT KAY
Overreaction after the Bucknell game: Kavon Stewart is the best point in the Northeast Conference…..Hey, based off last night, Cappella may actually be right.
But seriously, Stewart controlled the tempo for Robert Morris in the second half. Pryor may have led the team in scoring, but Stewart was easily the Colonials’ most valuable piece offensively.
Since he’s been at Robert Morris, Stewart has always had the ability to drive the lane from the point. He has the handles and athleticism to get there. He could get to the hole, but after that was when things would get messy.
This year looks different. Stewart, in my opinion, is more polished offensively. He’s finishing more of his opportunities (4-9 from the field). He’s made a point to be more physical on the offensive end.
“Most definitely, when I’m in attack mode that’s when the team goes. I can’t allow the defense to dictate how I play. I’ve got to come out every night and play how I’m capable of playing,” he said.