Not a lot went well for RMU last night. Rodney Pryor did not start due to a violation of team rules. He came in just four minutes into the game, but RMU was already down 11-0 by that time, so don’t pretend like that didn’t play a role in the game.
Elijah Minnie shot just 3-11 in the second half. This did not help RMU’s 11-29 second half performance.
The weird night from Pryor, the second half struggles from Minnie, these are things that the team can overcome. Billy Giles played excellent last night and any resemblance of a defensive effort probably would have led to a win.
But that would have just been a win last night. If we’re talking about wins, plural, moving forward, one person has to get dramatically better: Kavon Stewart.
Stewart did some good yesterday. He had six assists to just one turnover, building off a strong eight assists to two turnovers performance against New Mexico State. If those numbers keep up, Stewart’s going to have one of the best assist to turnover ratios in the country.
Dishing it the way he can is obviously important. RMU has one of the worst turnover percentages in the country, but that really hasn’t been at the hands of Stewart. After a few rough games to start the season, he’s come along well. The turnover problems are more of a team effort than anything else.
Here’s the bigger problem: Stewart is shooting just 25.0 percent from three AND the field. Twenty-five percent!
In the past, when RMU was surrounded with the likes of Karvel Anderson, Marcquise Reed and Lucky Jones, this is probably something you just live with. Yeah, he can’t shoot, but at least he’s getting it to guys who can or can mask his shortcomings.
That’s not the case this season. Minnie looks great, but the sophomore is going to come with inconsistencies. That’s just the nature of young players. The same goes for freshman Isaiah Still, who looks like a stud, and Matty McConnell, who figures to play a large role as the two guard.
The point? Simply dishing isn’t going to be enough. Last night’s 2-9 performance from the field was bad. There are a few simple ways that this should hopefully improve.
The biggest thing is field goal percentages at the rim. Let’s face it: Kavon has a crooked J. He can occasionally step into a three, which is great, but anything off the dribble is a complete mess. For someone as quick as Stewart, his points are going to come from driving and finishing at the rim. Just for reference, nearly half (47.5 percent) of all his shot attempts are at the rim, according to hoop-math. That’s far more than any guard on the team.
The problem is his numbers at the rim are B-league IM basketball bad. Through six games, he’s shooting 31.6 percent at the rim. The next lowest total is freshman guard Jordan Lester, who is at 50 percent.
Those numbers are a little tricky, because Stewart at least appears to be shooting at the rim in traffic, as opposed to a big who gets most of their looks at the rim from putbacks or assists, but the point remains that this is a negative trend. He shot 39.7 percent at the rim last year (still bad) and 44.7 percent as a freshman (much better).
I’m not the only one seeing this. Radio color man Jim Duzyk noted it during last night’s game when, after Stewart made a layup, he said something along the lines of “it’s nice to see one of those bunnies fall for Kavon.” It’s been a rough go.
Also, You’ve Got To Make Your Free Throws. #YGTMYFT! Stewart, who does draw a decent amount of fouls, is shooting 53.6 percent from the stripe this season. Those are free points! The season is going to take a big turn for the better if that number gets up closer to 65-70 percent. (That goes for a lot of others on the team too).
So here we are. I keep telling myself “it’s just six games, it’s just six games” but the same mistakes continue to haunt RMU over and over again. Stewart needs to stop being a broken record, relax on the floor, and get the Colonials back on track.
This team will go as Kavon does. You’ll see.