For the sixth time in his seven years at Robert Morris, Andy Toole walked to the handshake line after emerging victorious over local rival Duquesne. “Any time you’re in a rivalry situation it’s exciting. Alumni know who wins this game every year. It’s fun to compete,” Toole said postgame.
Toole, now 7-1 against the Dukes, has noted all year long how his group has missed on the little things, and was close to getting over that “hump” but has fallen short too often. Tuesday night, RMU (now 3-7 on the season) did those little things, and came away with a huge win.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Still finished with a game high 22 points on 7-13 shooting, 4-4 from three, and the decisive game winning bucket. While the offense was great, it was his game winning/saving block with seconds left up only one that was the difference.
“Probably the biggest play Isaiah made was the block on Blackman. He was active in our huddle, and that’s a winning attitude,” Toole said. While only a sophomore, Still has emerged as the go-to-man, and a leader in the huddle.
Senior’s Kavon Stewart and Billy Giles each had very nice games to help lead the young Colonials. Stewart hit a driving layup with 55 seconds left to put the Colonials up one and stop a mini Dukes run. He finished 6-12 from the floor, but knocked down some early jumpers, and that really opened up the paint for the big guys to go to work, and wings (specifically Still) to go to work. The senior point guard finishes his career 3-1 vs Duquesne.
Giles provided stout defense against a bigger frontline, chipped in six points, four boards, two steals and a block. He is as steady as they come, and seems to really compliment Aaron Tate well.
Maybe the biggest development was the continued good play from Clive Allen and Dachon Burke. Both have been very good early in their career, and tonight and it was again Allen’s night to shine.
The freshman guard finished with 11 points, a team high three assists, and knocked down four huge free throws to ice the game late. Most of the season Toole has pulled his freshmen late and went with his vets. Tonight, Allen played the crunch time minutes, and played well. “Clive wants to be out there. He keeps pushing. He gave up a few three-pointers, but he made four huge free throws,” Toole said.
While Matty McConnell struggled again with his offense, he continues to do so many other things well. He plays great defense, rarely misses rotations, moves the ball well, and doesn’t take bad shots. It’s hard to have a “good” 2-11 game but McConnell did. He tallied eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
For the Dukes, this one hurts. Just this past weekend, the program got their first win over Pitt since George Washington was president. Then just days later, they lost another one to RMU. Back to the drawling board.
This is maybe the third or fourth time I’ve typed this, but man I am so confident in my Still for First Team All NEC pick. He is a baller. 4-4 from three, 22 points, carried the offense in the first half, hit the biggest shot of the game, then saved it with a block. Stay all four years Zay! If he does, he’ll be one of the all time greats. I truly believe that. His game still needs a lot of work, but the talent, shooting ability and athleticism are there.
Clive Allen and Dachon Burke both look like they belong, and have most of the season. Still waiting to see more on the other freshmen, but those two look legit. Braden Burke continues to wear a mask as he’s recovering from a facial fracture. He only got 12 minutes tonight and seems to be struggling at adjusting to D1 speed. He picked up four fouls in that time frame and has had issues with foul trouble all year. You can see the size and talent, but he’ll need time to work on it.
Defense! The Colonials defense continues to improve. I think this will be one of the better units on that end come NEC play. I love the move back to man-to-man. The quickness and athletic ability at the guard and wing spots will give teams trouble, specifically in the NEC. KenPom already had them as one of the better defensive teams in college basketball (100 points-per-100 possessions), and that ranking should only improve. The only real issue is the fouls, which need to be cut down.
Beating the Dukes is always awesome. Toole is 6-1 vs them. Factor in Duquesne’s win over Pitt just this past weekend, and it tastes a little better.
Playing at PPG Arena was neat. There were a lot of empty seats, but you’ll have this with a game that far from campus in that big a venue. It looked like RMU brought a good amount of fans. The Colonials will play one more game there this season vs Buffalo on the 21st of December.
Much more to follow. For now, great win.