For most of this season, for better or worse, Robert Morris has taken its cues from point guard Velton Jones. When Jones is dialed in, the Colonials can be difficult to beat. But if he struggles, so does the team.
In the past two games, losses to Central Connecticut and Quinnipiac, Jones has shot 6 for 29 from the floor. In both games, he was scoreless at halftime.
In Robert Morris' other big losses this season, 81-71 at Pitt and 64-47 at Memphis, Jones also had difficulty scoring. In those games, he shot a combined 3 for 27 and totaled just 17 points, well below his average of 15.6 points per game.
"I think if we're going to be a good team, we're going to have different guys score at different times," Colonials coach Andy Toole said. "It should be what the defense gives you."
- Matchup: Sacred Heart (8-10, 2-3 NEC) at Robert Morris (12-6, 3-2 NEC), 7 p.m. today, Sewall Center, Moon.
- Radio, Internet: WPIT-AM (730), rmucolonials.com.
- Robert Morris: Coming off a 78-76 loss Thursday against Quinnipiac. ... Leading scorer Velton Jones (15.6 points per game) has been held scoreless in the first half of past two games. ... On first two-game losing streak since January 2011. ... Allowed the Bobcats to shoot 58.5 percent and 70 percent from 3-point range Thursday. ... Lost only meeting with Sacred Heart last year, 84-75.
- Sacred Heart: Beat Saint Francis, , 71-68, Thursday. ... Junior guard Shane Gibson scored 26 points in that win and has topped 20 points nine times this season. ... Has scored 80 points four times but is 1-3 in those games. ... Coach Dave Bike is in his 34th season at Sacred Heart, with a 514-471 record that puts him 20th in wins among active coaches.
- Hidden stat: The Colonials got 31 points from their bench in the loss to Quinnipiac, with Anthony Myers, Lijah Thompson and Lucky Jones scoring in double figures.
While life would certainly be a lot easier for the Colonials if Jones is making baskets consistently, the bigger problem is that other players aren't stepping in to fill the scoring void when he struggles. Against Central Connecticut, only Russell Johnson and Lucky Jones scored in double figures. Coron Williams, the team's second-leading scorer, scored eight points.
He only scored two Thursday against Quinnipiac, and Toole said he thought Williams sometimes "did a good job guarding himself" and didn't do enough to get open looks.
"It doesn't help when I'm not making shots either," Williams said. "We need to get the ball inside more. We need so start incorporating more guys so if [Velton's] off, if I'm off, it doesn't matter. The other guys can step up and make plays."
That inside game worked for Robert Morris in the first half against Quinnipiac and may have demonstrated a blueprint for how the Colonials can score even if Jones and Williams aren't. Forwards Mike McFadden and Lijah Thompson combined for 15 first-half points and the Colonials scored 18 points in the paint in the opening 20 minutes.
Jones, too, was able to positively impact his team even though he wasn't scoring. Against Central Connecticut, he said he let his missed shots impact other aspects of his game. Thursday, though, he still found open teammates and took a couple of key charges in the first half.
Sam Werner: email@example.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG.