The Colonials finished their four game road trip –which started with two losses– with a sweep of LIU and St. Francis Brooklyn. The last two games were a lot better than the first two (What an observation Lee!).
Let’s start with Saturday’s game. The Colonials used a 20-5 run late in the first half to pull away from the Terriers and cruised home with a 78-54 win. It was the best performance of the season. Coach Andy Toole was impressed with the effort, but wants to see his young team continue to strive for greatness. “We have to stay here. We need to continue to grow. We’re learning about what it takes to play well. Stay locked in,” Toole said after the game.
On Thursday, RMU gutted out a win at LIU. Isaiah Still scored 21 points, RMU got some big stops late, knocked down their free throws, and withstood a wonderful performance from NEC Player-of-the-Year favorite Jerome Frink (22 points, 8 rebounds).
It was nice to see Isaiah return to form. Since he injured his knee, he wasn’t the same guy. The knee seems to be getting better, and with that were seeing that amazing explosion return around the rim. When Isaiah is healthy, he can attack the rim with the best of them. “To see Isaiah have complete games in succession is really nice. He was active on the glass and really good defensively,” Toole said of the sophomore after the game Saturday.
Speaking of good defense. How about the freshman Dachon Burke. He has the looks of a multiple first team all defense type player. I would be surprised if he doesn’t win at least one Defensive Player of Year award while at RMU. He gets AFTER it on that end, and can guard one through four against most opponents. His instincts continue to develop as he gets more time and experience under his belt. The offense is also coming around. He’s scored double digit points in six of his last eight games.
A few more observations:
One, RMU is so much better when they are in transition. Toole has mixed his lineups up all season but seems to have found something with his small ball lineups. RMU now starts Kavon Stewart, Matty McConnell, Still, Dachon Burke, and Aaron Tate. This lineup has a ton of versatility on defense, and is super athletic. They are forcing stops, getting out in transition, and getting easy baskets. Clive Allen and Lorenzen Wright Jr are the first two off the bench. Braden Burke and Billy Giles are still in the rotation, but RMU rarely plays two bigs at the same time now. For the first time since early December, Wright has played double digit minutes in three straight games. These small lineups seemed to have sparked the offense. We’ll see if this continues.
Defense defense defense. The Colonials continue to have by far the best defensive unit in the NEC. They are giving up a staggering 93 points-per-100 possessions in conference play. This ability to defend will keep them in every game. Look at their recent three game losing streak. Loss by three, loss by one, loss by six in overtime. Only the OT loss to SFPA did RMU give up over 60 points. There has been this thought that if the offense can do almost anything, RMU will be a tough tough opponent for anyone in the NEC.
While the two game win streak was certainly badly needed, it didn’t help much in standings….yet anyway. RMU is tied with Bryant and SHU for the 6th, 7th, and 8th spot. They trail LIU and Wagner for the final home game slot in the conference tournament by two games and are just three games back of SFPA and FDU for second place. RMU gets four of their final six games at home, with the two road games being at Bryant and CCSU (two very winnable games). While I wouldn’t recommend booking you trip to Dayton for the first four matchups just yet, things are certainly looking a hell of a lot better now then they were this time last week. We’ll learn a lot more after this weekend, as league favorites MSM and Wagner come to Moon Township.