Improved defense pleases coach
Share with others:
In its past two games, Robert Morris has had to make second-half comebacks on the road to walk away with victories.
Colonials coach Andy Toole does not want to make that a habit.
Against Mount St. Mary's, the Colonials trailed, 32-19, with 3:34 to go in the first half. Against Saint Francis, they faced a 35-24 deficit with 2:19 left before halftime.
The one constant when the Colonials (18-8, 9-4 NEC) have struggled this season has been inconsistent defensive intensity. Despite the need for rallies in the past two games, Toole said he saw some positives Wednesday in the late stages against Saint Francis.
- Matchup: Saint Francis (5-19, 4-9 NEC) at Robert Morris (18-8, 9-4), 7 p.m. today, Sewall Center.
- Radio, Internet: WPIT-AM (730), rmucolonials.com.
- Robert Morris: Beat Saint Francis, 78-74, Wednesday in the first of two-game NEC "Rivalry Week" series this week. ... Sophomore Mike McFadden and freshman Lucky Jones tied for team lead with 14 points against the Red Flash. ... Have won 13 of the past 14 games against Saint Francis. ... Leading scorer Velton Jones (16.4 points per game) has averaged just nine points per game in the past three games.
- Saint Francis: Sophomore F Scott Eatherton leads Red Flash in scoring (14.8 points) and rebounding (7.1) and NEC in field-goal percentage (.627). He scored 10 Wednesday as junior G Anthony Ervin led the Red Flash with 20.
- Hidden stat: Robert Morris is averaging 34 points per game in the paint in its past three contests. Over the past five years, the Colonials are 45-12 when scoring at least 30 such points.
"We had a couple of defensive breakdowns early, but, overall, I thought our energy was good defensively," Toole said. "I thought there were stretches where we did some good things defensively and played well defensively."
The Colonials and Red Flash will meet again tonight in the second of their two-game NEC "Rivalry Week" series.
Robert Morris has dominated their in-state rivals the past few years, winning eight games in a row and last losing against Saint Francis in 2007.
Despite that run of success, playing the same team twice in a four-day span presents unique challenges, especially after the Red Flash showed Wednesday they are capable of playing with Robert Morris.
"I don't think that our guys had any expectations that they would walk in there and just roll over them," Toole said.
"There's a couple of things they tried to do defensively against us that had some success, and, hopefully, we can counteract that."
One area where Saint Francis did well defensively was taking the Colonials' leading scorer, redshirt junior Velton Jones, off the scoreboard.
Jones finished with eight points, but he contributed a season-high eight assists.
Over the past three games, Jones has scored 9, 10 and 8 points. Over that stretch, though, the Colonials are shooting 50.3 percent from the field.
"I don't care who scores and I don't know if Velton cares who scores, to be honest," Toole said. "What's important is we get great shots."
The game tonight could have major implications for Robert Morris' conference playoff positioning.
Sitting fourth, the Colonials have a chance to lock up an NEC tournament bid with a win that also would keep them two games ahead of Quinnipiac or Central Connecticut State in fifth.
The top four seeds will play host to their first-round playoff game.
A win would also give the Colonials a chance to move into a tie for third with St. Francis, which plays league-leading Long Island.
The Terriers hold the tiebreaker against the Colonials by virtue of their head-to-head win Jan. 28.
First Published February 11, 2012 12:00 am