At a glimpse: Life without Pryor

Robert Morris lost to Mount St. Mary’s 76-52 last night in a game that somehow was not as close as the final score indicates.

This was a bad one from the outset. Robert Morris played tough and forced turnovers in the first four minutes of the game. With 15:37 to go in the first half, the score was 7-4 Mount St. Mary’s.

With 10 minutes to go, it was 9-7 Mount St. Mary’s.

With five minutes left in the first half, it was 24-7.

By the time half ended, Robert Morris trailed 43-13. That’s right, RMU scored just 13 points in the first half of a Division I basketball game.

The Colonials lost this game by 24. They did so without Rodney Pryor, the team’s best player and perhaps the NEC player of the year. He averages 20.2 points per game. He missed the game after sustaining a concussion in practice.

This was an unfortunate glimpse at just how much Pryor means to this years team. Not only is he one of the only reliable shooters off the pass, he’s the only guy who can create offense for himself and free up others in a reliable manner.

Pryor has the third highest assist rate (Kavon Stewart and Jordan Lester are highest, and Lester barely plays), is the team’s best rebounder and can double as a ball handler. He’s been mister do-it-all this year.

Things were a mess without him. The team got killed on the boards, which usually happens but is especially concerning given Mount St. Mary’s awful rebounding numbers, and just couldn’t get easy shots off.

It’s hard to quantify with numbers, but Pryor, for as good of a scorer as he is, is just as good at drawing traffic and setting up teammates for open shots. Robert Morris was able to get off just nine three-point attempts. Pryor not being there to drive and kick or have defenders slack off teammates anticipating help played a role into that. Mount St. Mary’s was all over the passing lanes.

Any team going up against a preseason number one is going to struggle without their top scorer, but actually seeing it transpire was a whole other level.

This was one of the few games this season where head coach Andy Toole took a harsh tone with his teams performance. Some quotes from his press conference:

Obviously, it was going to be tough to win without Pryor, but the message here was clear: #11 isn’t playing, time to man up. The Colonials did not respond.

That’s probably been the most disappointing aspect of this whole season. Personally, as a Mets, Jets and Knicks fan, I can handle losing. I’ve been taking L’s my whole life. But there’s nothing worse than seeing an unmotivated, uninterested team taking the floor.

Not to look too far ahead, but this brings up another point with recruiting. Does Toole & Co. try and get back to their core, finding tough, hard-nosed competitors to bring in? The top players, in years past, all have shared a few common traits. From Velton Jones, to Karvel Anderson, to Anthony Myers-Pate, to Lucky Jones, those guys were tough SOBs. They hated losing, and the rest of the team followed suit. That isn’t too apparent on this team, at least not yet.

Ironically, I was saying the same thing last season. Although RMU got off to a better start in conference play, they were 8-10 through 18 games and had a nice stench of me-first basketball. That team, of course, proved everyone wrong, toughened up and won a championship.

Call me crazy, but with a healthy Pryor, I still think this team can do the same. I really do. I like the talent level of this team. They’re good defenders. They’re just not, as a group, tough. That’s what it comes down to. They lose a lot of close games because that shell hasn’t hardened. Maybe a few close wins can change that.

That, and of course, Rodney Pryor.

–Chris Cappella
@C_Cappella

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