Before we start to get any further, I’d like to share a story.
For weeks now, the office I work at in Virginia has had plumbing issues. Yesterday was the same case. We couldn’t use any of the bathrooms. So, naturally, we had a plumber come in to try and figure this all out once and for all.
I walk into the office at about 2 p.m. yesterday and the office, quite literally, smelled like shit. The entire office. I was sitting at my desk thinking “Wow, I am really working in shit right now. Surely, today can’t get any worse.”
Then I watched Robert Morris play LIU-Brooklyn. I instantly wished I was back in my office.
The Colonials lost their second game in a row, falling at home to LIU 65-54. Nothing about the game was appealing. Kavon Stewart was suspended for a violation of team rules, according to multiple reports. Isaiah Still shot 2-14. There was no one there because HILLZ and SNOW. It was as embarrassing a defeat as RMU has suffered in quite awhile.
Robert Morris – at least for one night – looked like the team we saw last season.
“Clearly LIU deserved to win the game,” head coach Andy Toole said. “They had more hunger and more desire. I apologize for the way we performed. Guys don’t really seem to appreciate this opportunity to be a Division I player, and that’s on me. You saw a team that didn’t have a personality tonight. I’m just not sure it’s important enough for our guys.”
Let’s start with Stewart. The senior PG was suspended for the game. If you follow RMU hoops, suspensions are an unfortunately regular occurrence. It’s still disappointing. Stewart is one of four seniors on the team and is the only guy to play big, valuable minutes for four seasons. It’s one thing if a freshman makes a dumb mistake – that happens everywhere across the country. It’s another when your senior point guard does it. Hopefully this is a one-time occurrence and nothing more.
Say what you want about Stewart, but he provides a value on the floor that no one else can replicate. He’s the definition of a true drive-and-kick point guard. His 101 free throw attempts are 20 more than the Isaiah Still, who is second on the team in that category. After Still? Clive Allen has taken 30 free throw attempts. Outside of Stewart, the team doesn’t have a guy who can consistently get to the rim and put opposing guards and bigs in foul trouble.
And –surprise! – RMU got to the free throw line a paltry 13 times without Stewart, connecting on eight of those shots. Here were there free throw attempts in the previous four games: 30, 28, 38 and 23.
Yes, RMU was pretty much dominated, but the outlook of the game certainly could have changed if Stewart was nothing more than someone who could slow the tempo and potentially get Jerome Frink or Nura Zanna in foul trouble.
Isaiah Still had his first stinker last night. He looked good getting to the rim but just couldn’t seem to connect, finishing 2-14. I felt a little bad for Still. He clearly got frustrated early and his poor start affected him the rest of the game. Sometimes it’s easy to forget Still is just a sophomore. These games are going to happen. Hopefully this is a learning experience for him going forward. Having a bad shooting night? Shake it off and find other ways to affect the game.
Of note, LIU out-rebounded RMU 43-20, owning a 14-3 edge on the offensive glass. Braden Burke (5) and Dachon Burke (5) literally grabbed half of the team’s total rebounds. Roberto Mantovani got the start but played just five minutes. His only contribution was an 0-2 shooting night.
The Burke’s were the team’s lone bright spot. I thought Jim Elias captured Dachon perfectly, saying (paraphrasing): “He makes his presence felt when he’s in the game.” He’s just a really good all-around player. Braden Burke, now sans a mask, shot 5-6 from the field. When that kid figures it out… watch out.
Overall, It was just a disappointing night. After blowing a second half double-digit lead to FDU last Saturday, I was interested to see how the Colonials would respond. It was less than inspiring.
The good news is the season is not over. There are games to be played. RMU has a very winnable contest coming up against St. Francis Brooklyn. It’s not a must-win, but it would sure feel good to help the team’s psyche. Or my psyche. Or both.
Just a note: Lee and I will be at the game Saturday. If you see us, feel free to stop by and chat.