The unfortunate reality for Robert Morris following Saturday’s 74-71 loss against Siena was this was a game that was there to win with even the slightest amount of execution and energy.
Perhaps I’ve spent too much time following the program to understand what head coach Andy Toole was going to say after Saturday’s loss, but the lack of energy was apparent. When things aren’t going well for the Colonials, their shoulders sag and the energy dips. Here’s Toole’s postgame quote:
“A completely disappointing performance by us. For a team that’s lost two games in a row, to come out at home with that kind of energy, it just shows a complete lack of respect for the game of basketball. I don’t know any other way to explain to people how important it is to understand the scouting report, be able to execute and be detailed in the way you go about your business. We can’t do it for long enough yet, so we have to keep working.”
The most disappointing aspect of this game wasn’t so much about execution, but body language. Robert Morris came out flat against a Siena squad without Evan Fisher and Sammy Friday, the team’s two best big men. So what happened? Well, the Saints still held their own on the glass while 6-foot-9 forward Sloan Seymour knocked down 3 of 6 3-point attempts.
This was the second time in three games a bad start to the second half hurt the Colonials. Against Drexel, it was a barrage of 3-point shots that put RMU in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
That wasn’t the case against Siena, who extended a 15-0 run from the end of the first half (including a 4-point play as the first half clock expired) into the second half. After falling behind by 11 in the first half, the Colonials again fell down big, this time by 17.
There is something to say about the effort to come bag from a big deficit not just once, but twice. There’s also something to say about falling behind by such deficits. Robert Morris – at times – looked defeated against Siena. There are a lot of ways to lose a basketball game, but lacking so much energy that its notable while watching on my iPhone should not be one.
So what’s more important? The energy RMU lacked while falling behind or the energy showed during the comeback?
The concern – or at least my concern – is like how I felt after the Drexel game about RMU’s perimeter defense. I don’t believe it will be a big problem moving forward, but it raised a red flag. That’s twice RMU has not played with the proper energy in a winnable game. Everyone can play with energy when things are going right (like the team’s wild run that tied the game late) but that needs to be there all the time.
It’s the details that often decide wins and losses. Details aren’t always X’s and O’s. Details can be in how you carry yourself, your communication and learning from mistakes.
The two biggest plays of this game were decided in the final five seconds of each half. In the first half, Siena’s Jalen Pickett drew a 4-point play because Malik Petteway and Matty McConnell didn’t clearly communicate if they were switching a pick and roll. Petteway backed off, realized he needed to close out, then closed out too hard and fouled.
OK. It happens. It stinks, but it happens.
Fast forward to the second half. With three seconds left, Siena again singles out Petteway in a pick and roll (a very important note. Given its success, that’s something to keep an eye on as the season continues.), this time with Josh Williams. Instead of a switch – which Petteway seems to expect – both Petteway and Williams stick with the ball handler while Kevin Degnan, the screener, slips to the left wing wide open. He drills the 3 and wins the game.
Two similar plays. One common result: A bucket.
Attention to detail. Communication. Energy. These are important ingredients to win a basketball game. Hopefully this was a learning moment for Robert Morris.