Robert Morris fell in overtime to New Mexico State last night, falling to 0-5 in the process. The Colonials played pretty well against a very good opponent, but remain winless on the young season. Some observations.
Elijah Minnie played his best game ever at this level. He was near unstoppable on the offensive end, scoring 29 points on 11 of 18 shooting, including 5 of 10 from three. He showed an array of moves, specifically in the second half. He attacked off the dribble, cleaned up some shots on the glass, and showed why he has so much promise. He is only a sophomore and is still coming into his own. I thought he was really aggressive in the second half, and would like to see him attack like that more often.
Basketball is a funny sport, and sometimes cruel. Rodney Pryor has carried RMU this season. Without him RMU would have been downright embarrassed on a few occasions this year. His teammates played their best game of the the season, and he laid an egg. He shot only 6 of 19 from the field, and only 1 of 5 from three. Everyone has an off night, and I’m far from worried about Rodney. He’ll come back strong, but it’s unfortunate he had a clunker when RMU played so well in other areas.
How about Isiah Still? He only scored 6 points on 2 of 8 shooting, but his three to send the game to overtime shows how much confidence he has. I don’t think Still is Marcquise Reed good, but he could still win NEC Freshman of the Year. He’s going to be really good.
Andre Fredrick played pretty well, going 4 for 4 from the field for 8 points, but only one rebound in a game where RMU got dominated on the glass (they were out rebounded 48 to 28) hurt the team. His inconsistencies are still alarming, but he is getting better.
Kavon Stewart had another weird game. His eight assists led the team and he only turned it over two times. With that said he went 1-6 from the field and only scored two points. He also did not attempt a free throw. I think most games, that stat line will do. He set guys up, did a nice job running the offense, and didn’t force it. Right now though, RMU is down two starters and could use a few more buckets from him.
The defense was once again so-so at best. Pascal Siakam had 35 points and killed RMU down low. He was just too much for an inexperienced frontline to handle. It only took him 18 shots too. That’s extremely proficient. Oh, and he added 13 rebounds. Ouch. We keep saying Aaron Tate will help, and he will once he (hopefully) gets healthy, but Frederick and Billy Giles have to be better in the middle of the zone both defensively and on the glass. I thought Giles had some nice stretches (he finished with nine points and five rebounds) but there are still times he looks lost as the anchor of the 2-3 zone.
For the first time this season (outside of the Cincinnati game where the whole team was overmatched) I thought Jordan Lester was exposed. He almost had the deer in the headlights look out there. He’s been pretty solid as a freshman backup point guard, but brought nothing but a few airballs to the table Tuesday night. Hopefully it’s a nice learning experience and he’ll bounce back this weekend.
At 0-5, RMU is off to their worst start is quite some time. The last time they started this poorly, you have to go all the way back to 2000-2001 when they started 0-7. That team started 1-12 and went 7-22 on the season. I’d bet a lot that RMU will be a lot better than that.
Up next is a road game at Tennessee Tech Friday and a quick turnaround against Mississippi Valley State the following day (neutral site game at Tenn Tech). These are the two most winnable games on the schedule to this point, and I think RMU has a solid chance to win both if they play like they did last night, and Pryor gets back on track. I think this team is close. Of note, Matty McConnell was dressed but DNP last night. I think we could see him and Aaron Tate back in the rotation this weekend. We’ll see.