Notebook: Colonials gaining #MOmentum

Win streak: After a three game losing streak to start the season (all on the road against teams in the KenPom top 150 mind you), Robert Morris has ripped off three wins in a row, including a win over local rival Duquesne. The Colonials finished Thanksgiving break with back-to-back wins over Norfolk State (Steve Whitley revenge game!!! Also on a neutral court) and then Arkansas Little Rock on the road. RMU has yet to play a game on their home floor, well sorta. More on that shortly.

The first official home game will take place December 6th against Rider at PPG. Before then, RMU will play two more road games at Youngstown State and Siena. During the win streak, RMU moved from 324 up to 273 in the KenPom rankings.

Let’s dig in.

7 of 8: Domination continues. For the seventh time in eight years, Robert Morris beat their local rival Duquesne. This season’s game marked the first for Dukes new head coach Keith Dambrot. The result was no differnt. RMU dominated the glass and were the visibly more athletic team. Impressive against an A-10 counterpart. While the game was played on the Dukes campus on their home floor, Robert Morris will play four home games there. It is certainly a building the Colonials are comfortable winning in. Let’s call the Palumbo Center home for now.

Positives: Some positives over the past few weeks. The RMU wings are REALLY good. We knew Dachon Burke was a good one, and would be one of the better defenders in the league, but he seems to have expanded his hame on the other end. Burke is up six percent from his freshman season, shooting a solid 37 percent clip from three. He has doubled his scoring output, going from seven to 14 ppg, all while shooting the same percentage. His efficiency hasn’t dropped despite the increase in usage.

Add in Koby Thomas, and the Colonials might have the best wing duo in the league come year’s end. Thomas, only a freshman, has come out of the gates looking way more polished than anyone may have expected. We knew he would have some highlight dunks, but how about these numbers. He leads the team at 14.5 per-game, he’s shooting a respectable 37 percent from three, and 52 percent from the field. He’s also second on the team in rebounding at six per-game, and has already scored over 20 points in two of the teams six games. Oh yea, he’s also guarded one through four this season, and has been a key cog in a stout defensive group over the past three games.  Throw is positive signs from reserves  Chris Coalman and Charles Bain, and the Colonials have found two very solid wing rotation players.

Freshmen: Along with Thomas, a few other freshmen are really playing well. Leondre Washington has brung a badly needed scoring punch off the bench, averaging 9.5 per-game along with double digit scoring efforts in three of the past four. His ability to create his own shot late in the shot clock, and attack the rim is something RMU does not have elsewhere on the roster.

Coalman and Bain have brought some nice scoring punch off the bench. Both have a lot to learn, especially on the defensive end, but their have been some nice signs. While Jon Williams has not lit the boxscore up, you can tell the kid knows basketball. He personifies “extension of the coach on the floor.” The offense moves and flows much better when he is on the court. Throw in redshirt freshman David Cole, who has provided some great minutes on the block, and you have a great looking class. Cole really seems to have learned a lot in his redshirt year.

Though he is not a freshman, how about JUCO transfer Malik Petteway? Guy is a beast on the glass, knows where to be on both ends. He has by far the best rebounding rate on the roster, and has already collected three double digit rebounding games, including two double doubles.

The defense was great at forcing turnovers last season, finishing seventh in the country in turnover percentage. This year they have upped the production four percent (that’s a lot!) and are fourth in the country right now in turnover percentage. While stats can be misleading this early in the season, I would be pretty confident this will remain.

As for the bad….the offense still needs a lot of work. RMU is scoring a paltry 93 points-per-possession. That has them ranked 338th in the country! Yikes. As a team they have struggled from three shooting just 30 percent, but if there is a silver lining, if two guys pick it up the three point shooting will be fine. Williams is at 19 percent (21 attempts), and McConnell is at 23 percent (34 attempts). Speaking of McConnell, he seems to be pressing a bit. It’s clear opposing defense’s are trying to take him out of the game by gearing their defense up for him, and attacking him on the defensive end, getting him in foul trouble. I wouldn’t expect him to play quite as well as he did in the preseason, but I would expect his 9 points, 23 percent three point shooting percentage, and overall efficiency will improve.

Up next: RMU heads to Youngstown State as they look to make it four wins in a row. They have lost four in a row to Penguins, all the past four seasons. This season the Penguins are 2-5, and both wins are against non-D1 opponents. KenPom has them ranked 317th in the country, and a one point favorite over RMU. The game is on ESPN3.

–Lee Kunkel


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