Robert Morris vs. Mount St. Mary’s never disappoints… If you’re a Mount St. Mary’s fan. If you’re like me, you might need to sign up for kickboxing.
Robert Morris was blatantly immature in Thursday’s 74-70 loss to the Mount, who improved to 11-2 in conference play. Robert Morris falls to 5-8.
Let’s start with the game changers. Robert Morris was trailing by eight with 4:39 remaining. Isiah Still (who continues to play well!) fouled Junior Robinson on a 3-point attempt. Three free throws. Andy Toole was T’d up. Two more free throws. Robinson – a 90 percent free throw shooter – knocked down all five. You do the math folks! RMU was down 12 with 4:39 to play.
To RMU’s credit, they fought like hell to make this a game. Mount is not a very good offensive team… RMU stuck with their defense, forced a few stops and got buckets to bring it close.
To me, that was a problem in itself. Watching the intensity and energy the team had in those final four minutes… Where was that all game? It was nice to see the guys step up in tough moments, but there needs to be more of that consistently going forward.
With one minute remaining, Robert Morris forced back-to-back turnovers. Dachon Burke took one to the bucket for a score. 69-66. Kavon Stewart took his defender to the rim and scored. 69-68.
Stewart was T’d up. Replays made it look like Stewart screamed in his defender’s face (I think it was Elijah Long, more on him later). Whether Stewart was actually talking trash or was just releasing his emotion – with Long inadvertently standing in his way – the point remains: Stewart had to keep his cool.
To add insult to injury, that was Stewart’s fifth foul. Robinson made 1-2 free throws off the technical, then put the game away with 18 seconds remaining with a ridiculous drive and scoop shot at the rim.
Robinson finished with 28 on the night. He was absolutely brilliant. In the last two years, he’s shot 10-18 from 3-point range against RMU.
But here’s the point. RMU fouled on two 3-point shots tonight. Free points. They were nailed for two technicals. More free points. And those technicals were on your senior point guard and head coach. These aren’t rookie mistakes. These are guys who have been around the block. In a game as tight as this one, it made a huge difference.
-Mount St. Mary’s went 9-20 (45 percent) from 3-point range tonight. That’s an uncharacteristically high number for an RMU team that was limiting opponents to 28 percent from deep this year, second in the country. Here’s the thing… I liked the defense tonight! Almost all of those shots were contested. It happens.
-Robert Morris: 11-20 from the free throw line. There’s really nothing else to say about it at this point. I can only type “You Gotta Make Your Free Throws” so many times before I want to break my keyboard. But seriously. Make your free throws. 11-20 is a joke.
-Big picture, I really loved the way the guys played today. They got some really good looks all over the floor and couldn’t connect. They made Mount St. Mary’s work for their shots. But again, it’s the little things. The technicals. The free throws. The layups that go in and out. The put backs that don’t fall. The silly fouls. “Big picture” only gets you so far. To beat the best, you have to do the little things. RMU hasn’t been able to do that against the best teams on a consistent basis. This goes back to NEC game No. 1 at FDU. It happened both games against the Mount. The guys are young… it’ll click eventually. Just maybe not this year.
-This Mawdo Sallah cat deserves some credit. The Mount big man is a force at the rim. He – officially – finished with just one block. He altered just about everything that was at the rim. There was a stretch in the second half where it felt like every RMU layup at the rim was a good look and a miss because guys were hesitant about Sallah being there.
-Take this for what it’s worth: KenPom has Mount St. Mary’s guard Elijah Long as the best player in the NEC. Personally, I would go with LIU’s Jerome Frink (and ultimately I think Frink will win NEC POY) but it does speak to how good Long has been. He struggled tonight: 9 points, 3 boards, 3 turnovers on 4-10 shooting. Why? Because Dachon Burke is a manimal. That kid really is one of the best one-on-one defenders I’ve seen in the six years I’ve watched RMU hoops.
Burke was playing some really good ball on the offensive end too, but struggled Thursday, finishing with six points on 3-10 shooting. The thing I like about him is it doesn’t really seem to affect him. He remains aggressive and involved in other parts of the game. He had eight rebounds tonight. Between his defense and rebounding, the value he brings is already enough.
-Nice game for Clive Allen, who took advantage of little help defense by attacking and finishing early. Allen still looks hesitant to shoot from deep (and he’s struggled from 3 since the UVa game) but he provided a nice offensive spark tonight.
-As I’ve seemingly said about 100 times the past few years, RMU can be young, stupid and still play with anyone. They beat the NEC champs twice last year. They’ve lost two games to the Mount by five combined points. They lost to Wagner by three. They lost at St. Francis PA in overtime. These are the growing pains, and it stinks. There is definitely some metaphorical fat to cut off from this team. Those stupid, little errors like travels, technicals, illegal screens, missed free throws; they all add up.
-This was a big loss in the standings. With a win, RMU would have remained just a game behind LIU and Wagner for a 3/4 seed. With the loss and a Sacred Heart win over St. Francis Brooklyn (game in progress now), the Colonials would be in a tie for the 6-8 seeds with Sacred Heart and Bryant. The Colonials still have to play both of those teams one more time, so there’s really no need to run through the tiebreakers yet. LIU and Wagner both won in overtime Thursday, so RMU is three games back in the loss column of both teams. A home game is unlikely.
-One more shout out to Junior Robinson. Keep balling for all of us little people out here.
Back at it on Saturday versus Wagner. Stay cool.