Colonials get shot at early 10th victory
Share with others:
After Robert Morris' victory Dec. 6 against Duquesne, coach Andy Toole set a goal for his team.
The team was 7-2, and Toole challenged his players to get to double-digit wins by Christmas -- a feat no Robert Morris team has accomplished.
The Colonials stumbled against Cleveland State in their next game, but won the next two to get to 9-3. They will visit Youngstown State tonight with a chance to meet Toole's benchmark.
"You obviously want to win every game that you can," Toole said. "We have long-term goals, obviously, for our season, but, you know, in the short term, I think sometimes you need to do things to keep guys motivated and keep guys locked in."
- Matchup: Robert Morris (9-3) vs. Youngstown State (6-5), 7:05 p.m. today, Beeghly Center, Youngstown, Ohio.
- Radio, Internet: WPIT-AM (730), rmucolonials.com.
- Robert Morris: Coming off a 64-54 victory Tuesday vs. Hampton. ... Beat Youngstown State, 90-60, a year ago at home. ... Made first appearance in CollegeInsider.com's Mid-Major Top 25 this week (No. 24). ... Velton Jones leads the team with 16.8 points per game. ... F Russell Johnson missed most of the game Tuesday (broken nose), but is expected to return. ... Forward Lijah Thompson (6-7) will miss his third game (foot).
Lost, 88-62, Monday against Akron. ... Kendrick Perry leads team with 15.5 points per game. ... The five starters have scored 85 percent of the points. ... Has won 11 home games in a row vs. non-conference teams. ... Beat St. Francis, Pa., of the Northeast Conference, 60-59, earlier.
Hidden stat: Jones has scored in double-digits in 18 consecutive games dating to last season, tied with Gene Nabors for the third-longest streak in RMU history.
Part of that success may be rooted in an easier early season schedule this year. Last year, the Colonials played Pitt, Kent State, West Virginia and Arizona before Christmas. This year, their only truly elite opponent was Pitt. Still, Robert Morris beat Duquesne and came close to upending Cleveland State, generally regarded as one the better mid-major teams in Division I.
Beyond the schedule, though, Robert Morris has jelled more quickly than in years past. Leading scorer Velton Jones attributed the fast start to the team's experience and cohesiveness. Transfer Mike McFadden is the youngest starter as a sophomore, and Lucky Jones is the only freshman playing significant minutes.
"Me, [Coron Williams], Russell [Johnson], even Lawrence [Bridges], we've got a lot of minutes under our belt," Velton Jones said. "We've played in some big games and we know what it takes to win down the stretch. I think that's helping us."
It has not been easy the past two games. First, starting forward Lijah Thompson went down with a foot injury and likely will be out until league play resumes in January. Tuesday night against Hampton, starter Russell Johnson had his nose broken when he was hit with an elbow and missed the entire second half.
In their absence, other players have stepped up. In the win against the Pirates, Lucky Jones scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
"There's times in practice where guys will get banged up, and we'll have guys at different positions," Toole said. "But it's still the same sport, it's still the same game, you're still expected to make positive plays for your team."
Toole said setting those smaller goals, such as getting 10 wins before Christmas, is an important part of building Robert Morris' profile as a basketball school.
"We're always trying to kind of push the envelope and raise the bar for Robert Morris basketball," he said. "So, if that's a way that we can motivate our guys and get them excited about everything that's going on and maybe give them a little extra motivation and focus, well then that's part of our job as coaches."
The Colonials will look to get to that 10-win plateau tonight against a Youngstown State team that is coming off three consecutive losses. The Penguins, from the Horizon League, have four players -- Kendrick Perry, Blake Allen, Damian Eargle and DuShawn Brooks -- averaging in double figures. The Colonials beat the Penguins, 90-60, a year ago at Sewall Center.
First Published December 22, 2011 12:00 am