I completely forgot RMU opened up conference play at sacred Heart with a 3:30 p.m. game. I’m just conditioned to 7 p.m. starts. 3:30 had me so thrown off. Apparently, I wasn’t alone.
Robert Morris’ opening 10 minutes were rather uninspiring. Sacred Heart, who loves to play super up-tempo, did exactly that with no answers from RMU. Forward Joseph Lopez was the main beneficiary, scoring the team’s first seven points of the contest.
Lopez – and the rest of the Pioneers – didn’t do it with just transition. They pounded the glass. They limited RMU’s main offensive weapon (offensive rebounding) and threw it right back in their face. At halftime, SHU had 10 more fast break points, held an 8-5 offensive rebounding margin and was shooting 51 percent from the field.
Credit to the Colonials though, who despite some really poor shot attempts and transition defense, hung around by forcing 11 turnovers. Isaiah Still, who missed the Buffalo game, drilled one of two 3-pointers at the buzzer to give SHU just a 35-34 halftime lead.
This is usually the part of the story where the coach gives a big halftime speech, the guys come out of the locker room fired up and lay the hammer down on an inferior opponent. But that didn’t really happen!. Sacred Heart stretched their lead to seven with 16:47 remaining.
RMU started chipping away over the next four minutes until a Clive Allen layup gave the Colonials a 50-49 lead. Robert Morris started really attacking Sacred Heart after that. The Colonials scored only off of layups or free throws for the next six minutes until Still’s dagger corner 3-pointer with 6:18 left gave Robert Morris a 64-54 lead. Game, blouses.
-What a pleasure it is to watch Isaiah Still. After leaving the UVa game with a leg injury and missing the Buffalo game, the sophomore dropped 22 points on 6-12 shooting. He went 7-12 from the free throw line, which I think makes him the best RMU free throw shooter in two years. Seriously, these guys stink at shooting free throws.
I digress, but Still was the best guard on the floor today. He added seven boards, two steals a block and committed just one turnover in 31 minutes. Still is such a terrific finisher around the rim and has the size and strength to get there against just about any NEC guard that tries to defend him.
-Kavon Stewart had a very Carmelo Anthony-esque 14 points on 14 shots but did add four steals. There was a point early in the game where I wondered aloud what the record is for the amount of field goal attempts without recording a bucket because it felt like he was gunning for that record. I couldn’t find the answer, by the way, if someone else wants to try and find it for me.
Like the rest of the team, Stewart started finding his groove in the second half. He had a big steal and a score late in the game to extend RMU’s lead. He was ultra-aggressive and capitalized on it.
-With RMU trailing 21-13 with 7:40 remaining in the first half, Toole went with a Clive Allen-Lorenzen Wright-Dachon Burke-Isaiah Still-Billy Giles lineup. It worked! Giles and Burke got free for layups, then Still and Wright hit back-to-back 3s. That run cut the deficit to two. Without it, I’m not sure RMU would have won.
-Roberto Mantovani played a really solid 10 minute stretch in the second half. He was active on defense, rebounded and even scored! Nice little spin and layup for the big fella. I’m getting a lot of nickname ideas for him. I personally enjoy “The Greek Eek” but “CP32”, “Cyprus Hammer” and “Cyprus Psycho” are all very strong. Best game he’s played as a Colonial so far in my opinion.
-Personally, I would have liked a little more Lorenzen Wright in this one, especially early. Sacred Heart was packing the paint and daring RMU to beat them from 3. Outside of Still, no one can. Wright – who is practically a Chuck Oliver clone – went 1-1 from deep. He saw six minutes tonight.
-Billy Giles and Aaron Tate combined for 13 rebounds. Those two getting tough in the second half really cut down on Sacred Heart’s rebounding advantage.
-10 points on 5-10 shooting for Dachon Burke. I am excited to see what the future holds for him. He’s another guard that’s very good around the rim.
-RMU’s stink at the free throw line was only covered by Sacred Heart, who went 12-19 from the stripe, way below their season average.
-At some point in the second half RMU went to a 2-3 zone. I thought it was very effective. Sacred Heart had much less success getting into the lane and feeding their big men. It also kept RMU out of foul trouble.
That’s all for now!