Colonials hunt for consistency

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Less than an hour after Robert Morris' 81-68 loss against St. Francis Saturday night, staff members already were setting up a projector and computer for a late-night film session.

The Colonials watched the whole game, and coach Andy Toole said he was not surprised by what he saw.

"We talked about some things I saw on the sideline. Lack of focus, lack of urgency, lack of concentration," he said. "Just disappointing that it would occur at such a big moment."

Toole said one of his biggest concerns for his team is finding a consistent identity. For the past five years, the Colonials' identity has been that of a hard-working team that plays tough half-court defense. The loss to the Terriers marked the second time Robert Morris has given up 51 points in the second half, the other being a 78-76 loss to Quinnipiac last month. Perhaps more troubling is the fact that both were home games.


Scouting report
  • Matchup: Robert Morris (16-7, 7-3 NEC) at Wagner (17-4, 8-2), 7 p.m. today, Spiro Sports Center, Staten Island, N.Y.
  • TV, radio, Internet: Root Sports, WPIT-AM (730), rmucolonials.com.
  • Robert Morris: Coming off an 81-68 loss Saturday against St. Francis. ... Colonials tied a season high by allowing Terriers to score 51 points in the second half. ... Redshirt junior Velton Jones leads the Colonials with 17.4 points and 4.1 assists per game. He has topped 20 points in four of the past five games. ... Ranked third in the NEC in field-goal percentage defense(42.4 percent).... Split season series with Wagner last year, with the home team winning each matchup.
  • Wagner: Beat Quinnipiac, 51-50, Saturday. ... At 74th, the Seahawks are the highest-ranked NEC team in RPI. ... Sophomore Latif Rivers leads the team with 16.4 points per game. He is also shooting 88.9 percent from the free-throw line. ... Ranked No. 24 in CollegeInsider.com's Mid-Major Top 25.
  • Hidden stat: Robert Morris and Wagner rank first and second in the NEC in scoring defense. The Colonials give up 63.0 points per game and the Seahawks allow 63.5.

"I don't trust the identity of this team yet," Toole said. "I don't know what they're going to bring night to night, day to day. That's scary because it's February now and you're supposed to have a feel for what's going on, but I don't know that."

The loss to St. Francis came just two days after Robert Morris halted Long Island's 8-0 conference start with a 75-66 win. The Colonials likely played their best game that night, but failed to use the win as a springboard to a win Saturday.

This weekend presents a similar challenge. Tonight, they play Wagner, which upset Pitt earlier this season and has the best RPI among NEC teams. The second-place Seahawks are a game ahead of Robert Morris in the conference standings.

Saturday, Robert Morris will take on 10th-place Mount St. Mary's, which is fighting for a spot in the NEC tournament. The Mountaineers, a game out of the final spot, always play Robert Morris tough and the Colonials' two wins last year came by a combined 11 points.

"[We need to] know that every game is important," redshirt junior Velton Jones said. "Not just games we think are important. We've got to be more mature about everything going down the stretch."

The Colonials could get a boost this weekend with the return of forward Russell Johnson, who has missed the past five games with a broken thumb. Johnson practiced this week, but is questionable for the Wagner game.

"I told Russ last week, 'Don't come back unless you're ready to play as hard as you can every time you step on the floor,' " Toole said.

With eight league games remaining, there is plenty of time for Robert Morris to make up ground and earn a high seed for the NEC tournament. More results like Saturday, though, could mean the Colonials have to hit the road for their first tournament game. The top four teams will play host to first-round playoff games, and Robert Morris currently is tied with Central Connecticut State for the fourth spot.

"I'd like to see us show up on multiple occasions in a row," Toole said. "I'm not even talking about winning or losing, I'm just talking about the way that you approach the game, the way you understand the scouting report, the energy you have, the excitement you have to go out and play a game. That would be huge steps in the right direction."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG.


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