Keeping focus is Colonials' goal
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There's a school of thought in sports that reads like a paradox at first glance -- that it's harder to deal with success than rebound from adversity.
To fully understand this, look no further than the Robert Morris men's basketball team this season.
The Colonials (12-7, 4-2) currently are reveling in a four-game win streak, all Northeast Conference victories. But, if any lesson has been proven through 19 games, it's that the greatest accomplishments quickly can be accompanied by startling shortcomings.
The Colonials' season has been divided into four chapters.
There were three losses in the first four games.
Then came a stretch with seven wins in the next eight games, but that was followed by three consecutive losses, quickly sending them in search of answers.
Given such a history, the Colonials know they cannot afford to be complacent about current chapter-- four consecutive wins.
"With anybody, when you start thinking big picture, you lose sight of the important stuff," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said.
"Those things don't come if you don't take care of your work every day, and that's how we've refocused our efforts."
After dropping their first two NEC games, both at home, the Colonials have rallied to win four in a row.
Toole has emphasized the importance of metaphorical "day-to-day contracts" in which he has entered with his team. Keeping a team focused and motivated during a winning streak can be difficult, and for a coach, those contracts can go a long way toward maintaining a level of urgency.
"When you're talking about [success], that takes a little more discipline, that takes a little more, I think, toughness," Toole said.
"It's easy to motivate a team that's lost two games -- try motivating a team that's won four or five."
The emergence of several key players has helped to buoy the team, with perhaps nobody standing out more than forward Russell Johnson.
Johnson, a redshirt senior, has scored in double figures three of the past four games, getting a season-high 22 points in Robert Morris' 87-75 win Saturday against Quinnipiac.
Hampered through the early part of the season by a high ankle sprain, Johnson's game has flourished as he has healed.
"It limits cuts, it limits jumps, it limits everything," Johnson said of the injury, which forced him to miss the team's first three games.
"It really puts a lid on everything you're trying to do."
With a game tonight at Saint Francis in Loretto, Pa., the Colonials find themselves in a familiar position.
Last time around, the team wasn't able to maintain its pace, but with the implementation of new practice routines and a new mindset, the players believe they have learned from the past.
"Our destination isn't winning four games in January -- it's becoming the best team we can in March," Toole said.
"If we haven't reached that destination yet, well, then we still have work to do and still have things we can improve [upon], and let's utilize all the time we have up until then to become the best team we can be."
First Published January 24, 2013 12:21 am