Robert Morris was able to get win number three after defeating LIU Brooklyn 70-60 Thursday night. It was the Colonials first conference win of the season after losing their first two at home to Sacred Heart and Wagner.
Robert Morris did a lot well Thursday. They won the rebounding margin, shot 42.9 percent from the floor, 40.0 percent from three and had 13 assists to 24 made baskets, a big improvement from what we’ve seen in the past. The 16 turnovers was a high amount, but 13 of those came in the first half. When they had to clean up the turnovers, they did.
Rodney Pryor paced the Colonials with 21 points on 7-14 shooting. He collected 11 boards in the process.
Pryor was great, but unlike most games, Robert Morris was able to close out the game with other contributions, a big stepping stone in a season that still has potential.
Pryor’s three with 9:40 remaining gave RMU a 52-51 lead. From there, the Colonials finished the game on an 18-9 run, with Pryor not scoring again until there were 29 seconds left.
The real stretch run started with 4:36 remaining. Elijah Minnie, who was held to just five points up to that point, hit back-to-back three’s to stretch RMU’s lead. It was a typical Minnie play. On one, the defense played too far off of him and he was able to knock down a good look. The next possession, he popped off a pick and roll and hit it.
Minnie wasn’t done, putting the icing on the cake with this monster slam with 1:18 left.
Between that time, Isaiah Still, who has been up and down in his freshman campaign, hit a tough shot in the corner for three, assisted by Kavon Stewart. Stewart wasn’t great, but he was aggressive all game, a big key for RMU moving forward. Stewart is the type of guy who can win a game without scoring, just by keeping a defense honest.
Stewart’s free throw shooting is still a concern. He’s a great defender to close games, and he is the team’s best ball handler, but that can be a dangerous mix when he’s asked to ice games hitting free throws. He went just 2-7 from the line Thursday. He’s on pace to have his worst free throw shooting percentage of his career (currently at 58 percent).
Don’t dismiss Matty McConnell’s contribution to the game. McConnell is establishing himself as the team’s most active defender. In a three point game with 2:32 remaining, McConnell had a block and a steal in back-to-back possessions. RMU gave up just nine points over the final ten minutes of the game.
RMU will need that effort moving forward. Head coach Andy Toole noted in his postgame interview that he saw more guys hitting the floor for loose balls Thursday than any other game combined. Hyperbole? Maybe, but it’s a good starting point.
Who knows if Thursday was just a flash in the pan. Robert Morris will play St. Francis Brooklyn Saturday afternoon. They’re better than the Terriers, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see RMU feeling too good about Thursday’s win and come out flat. It’s hard for young teams to build off that success. Let’s see if the Colonials answer.