Colonials’ defense, effort troubles coach

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In his four seasons as Robert Morris coach, Andy Toole has expected certain things from his players.

Paramount among them is effort, the kind that allows his teams to be competitive in numerous aspects of the game. Though not always the case, strong effort often has a way of bringing about consistency.

So far this season, Toole hasn’t seen that sort of ever-present effort he has come to expect and, as a result, Robert Morris has suffered.

The Colonials are 3-4 and have dropped four of their past five games, a record that’s partially a product of inconsistency.

“I’ve got to believe it’s more in line with our effort, maybe our togetherness, maybe our toughness and continuing to execute our plan when our opponent is trying to take away some things that were working for us in the beginning,” Toole said of his team’s recent shortcomings. “A lot of it comes down to sustained effort, and we’ve got to make sure our effort, regardless of who’s playing or who’s coming off the bench or who’s going in, is extremely high at all times.”

On a team with six new scholarship players, a losing streak easily could be attributed to a lack of continuity. After all, a team with so many new faces needs time to get used to playing with one another and that transition likely contributes to some losses.

That, said Toole, is not the sole explanation for some noteworthy early trends.

In three of their four losses this season, the Colonials built leads of 10 or more points in the first 15 minutes but lost a majority of that advantage by halftime. The one game that did not happen was a 38-point loss to then-No. 1 Kentucky.

The more pressing concern might be the Colonials defense, a point of pride under Toole and his predecessor, Mike Rice. In five of the team’s first seven games, they have allowed more than one point per possession, the first time that has happened in the past decade.

“The defense is very worrisome,” Toole said. “We’re trying to figure out a way to make it as important as it needs to be to everybody who is playing.

“We see guys get upset when they miss a shot, get upset when they turn the ball over. I don’t see our guys get as upset when our opponents make a shot or when they miss a defensive assignment or when we don’t close out properly.”

Even with these early flaws, there have been promising signs. As they have in recent seasons, the Colonials have shot fairly well from 3-point range (36.4 percent), and first-year players like Jeremiah Worthem, Desjuan Newton and Charles Oliver have proven to be reliable contributors.

“It’s encouraging that guys are playing hard and, for the most part, competing, but it’s disappointing that we can’t be a little more disciplined in how we compete,” Toole said.

“We hurt ourselves as much as our opponents hurt us.”


Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.

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