Defense is key for RMU Colonials

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A week after back-to-back lackluster defensive performances that left Robert Morris coach Andy Toole at a loss, the Colonials got back to their hard-nosed defensive roots recently with back-to-back road conference wins.

Tonight, the Colonials will try and extend the winning streak to three games against Sacred Heart at Sewall Center.

The Colonials stumbled to an 0-2 start in conference play -- losses in which they gave up 84 and 77 points to Bryant and Central Connecticut State -- but earned two wins last week with dominating 88-54 and 70-55 wins at Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth, respectively.

Despite the improved performance, Toole said he isn't letting his team think they're back to where they need to be.

"I thought we did a nice job in both games defensively, but unfortunately we've been fooled before," Toole said. "We can't relax and say we're back to where we need to be because as soon as we do that, we stop. So, each and every day we've got to continue to work on that and build on that."

That defensive tenacity will be especially important for Robert Morris this week as they try and stop Sacred Heart. The Pioneers are led by redshirt junior guard Shane Gibson, who ranks third in the conference with 18.2 points per game.

"He's not a guy you can stop, he's a guy you've got to try and limit," Toole said. "You've got to try and make him shoot a low percentage, because he's going to take shots. He has to take shots for them."

That task could be tougher with Velton Jones' status still up in the air. Jones, the Colonials' star point guard, was hit in the head early in the game and had to sit out all but three minutes of a victory Saturday at Monmouth.

Toole said Jones' status for this weekend was uncertain, but sounded optimistic about his chances. Jones, for his part, has a history of gutting it out through injuries.

"I'm hopeful for him," Toole said. "We all know that if there's a possibility, he's going to be out there. I would expect he'll be poking his head in the lineup at some point, hopefully."

Even if Jones has to take a more limited role this week, his teammates did an admirable job picking up the slack. Lucky Jones had 18 points and eight rebounds in his teammate's absence, and Mike McFadden and Coron Williams also scored in double digits.

"I said to them at halftime, 'How many times has Velton picked you guys up? Now we've got to pick him up,' " Toole said. "I liked the way guys responded."

• ROBERT MORRIS scouting report, This Page.

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Sam Werner: or on Twitter: @SWernerPG.


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