Robert Morris (1-9) vs. Lehigh (1-7)
When: Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.
Where: Charles L. Sewall Center, Moon Township, PA
KenPom: RMU 282, Lehigh 222
KenPom Line: RMU -1
Link: NECFrontRow.com, ESPN 970 AM (iHeartRadio APP)
Storyline: Robert Morris is playing in just their third home game of the season when they host the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Lehigh came into the year with moderate expectations in the Patriot League, but have faltered mainly to a tough schedule, poor rebounding and bad defense. Hey, that sounds like RMU!
Getting to know the Mountain Hawks: If you take Robert Morris and move them to the Patriot League, you’ll pretty much see their identical twins in Lehigh. In fact, I think the two teams were spearated at birth in a hospital mix-up, but I can’t confirm that. Anyway, Lehigh was picked first in the Patriot League preseason poll, thanks in to a roster full of returning players and junior center Tim Kempton, the preseason player of the year.
It’s been a tough go for Kempton early. He’s still averaging a team-high 16.8 points-per-game, but he’s only shooting 41.7 percent from the floor. Last year, he shot 50 percent from the floor. I would attribute at least some of his shooting troubles to playing really good teams teams like Syracuse, Yale, Virginia and Purdue.
Even with the low field goal percentages, Kempton is able to score because of his foul rate. His 8.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes is the 17th best ratio in the country. This is bad news for Andre Frederick, who has struggled with foul trouble this season. As some may recall, in RMU’s last home game against Oakland, the Colonials were forced to play Rodney Pryor and Isaiah Still at center because of Frederick’s foul trouble. Frontcourt depth will again be pushed to the limit.
To pair with Kempton, Lehigh also has a really good backcourt duo made up of sophomore point guard Kahron Ross (10.5 ppg, 6.0 apg) and junior shooting guard Austin Price (12.5 ppg). Ross is your traditional mid-major point guard — under 6-foot, quick hands defensively, ‘meh’ three point shooter and elite court vision.
Price is a good sized shooting guard. At 6-foot-4, he can shoot over most defenders and with authority. He’s shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc this season. The Colonials cannot slack off of him in the zone, or he’ll make them pay.
Jesse Chuku and Kyle Leufroy round out the starting five. Both guys are versatile forwards who are equally as dangerous from inside the paint as outside. Leufroy is a tough matchup at 6-foot-9.
It’s extremely difficult to get a feel for Lehigh. Their only win on the season came Saturday, Dec. 5 against Rochester Michigan, a non-DI school. With that being said, did anyone expect them to beat Yale, Syracuse, Virginia, Purdue or even Columbia?
Things do get a little puzzling when you look at common opponents. The Mountain Hawks lost to Columbia by 27 and to St. Francis PA, an NEC team, 84-73. SFU was able to get to the line 26 times and shot 9-18 from three in that game.
That’s a pretty solid blueprint to carry over. If RMU can get Kempton in foul trouble, that would be a plus, but Lehigh hasn’t been able to slow anyone offensively. Teams have an effective field goal percentage of 53.1 percent, 279 in the country. When teams do miss, they’re rebounding extremely well, collecting forty percent of their misses. That’s almost dead last in the country. Seriously. It;s 350 in the country. There are only 351 DI teams. I looked it up if you don’t believe me.
Rodney Pryor is going to get his, but who else will step up against Lehigh? This feels like a game Isaiah Still could have a big impact. He can bother Price in the zone with his length and athleticism and attack offensively.
It’s going to have to be 40 minutes of team basketball. We’ve seen Robert Morris play well for 30 minutes, or 35 minutes, but not a full 40. This is as winnable a game as there is on their schedule. Even with little energy in the stands (students are off on winter break), RMU has to take pride in defending their home floor.