ROBERT MORRIS BASKETBALL: First-half woes doom Colonials
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Robert Morris put together its most complete defensive performance of the season in a 51-44 win against LaSalle Friday.
Sunday against Pitt, the Colonials gave up 42 points in the first half alone.
The 81-71 loss to the Panthers moved Robert Morris' (4-2) record against Pitt to 0-30 all time, and coach Andy Toole said there was definitely a mental roadblock when his team took the floor against its cross-town rivals.
"I think it's even more than a Big East team. I think it's Pitt," Toole said. "I completely think it's more than just we're playing a Big East team. I think the fact that it says P-I-T-T across their uniform, all of a sudden our guys bow down."
In last year's loss to the Panthers, Robert Morris trailed by just three at halftime, but was outscored, 41-25, in the second half. This year, the opening 20 minutes were trouble for the Colonials, who trailed, 42-25, at the break.
Pitt's defense held Colonials leading scorer Velton Jones to just 10 points on 1 of 14 shooting. Jones entered the game averaging 19.4 points per game and poured in 38 in a win against James Madison Nov. 22.
"They were just switching up, a lot of different defenders," Jones said. "Not letting me get open looks."
Coron Williams and Russell Johnson came on strong in the final 20 minutes for the Colonials, with 15 points apiece in the second half after combining for just six in the first half.
By that point, though, the game was out of reach.
"We're supposed to be able to share the basketball, screen, move, do different things," Toole said. "We have different sets to try and get different people involved, but part of being a good offensive team is taking what the defense gives you."
Robert Morris struggled offensively against LaSalle, too, but was able to rely on its defense to hold tough. Against the Panthers, Jones said, the Colonials let their offensive struggles affect their defensive play.
Pitt shot 48.1 percent from the field and had no trouble getting open looks on the perimeter.
"If we did everything we were supposed to and defended the way that we work on every single day, and they were still making shots, well then that's on me," Toole said. "But we were having breakdown after breakdown."
The biggest takeaway for Toole, though, was to try to find a way to bottle the collective intensity his team played with in the second half Sunday -- when they outscored Pitt, 46-39 -- and spread it out over a full 40 minutes. The Colonials also outrebounded Pitt, 23-19, in the second half and had 11 second-chance points.
"If you're getting into a fight with a bear, you're not going to wait for him to hit you first, are you? No, you've got to go and you've got to try and put him on his heels," Toole said. "And if it doesn't work out, you're getting mauled either way. But at least you got a couple of shots in."
The Colonials will return to action Thursday with their Northeast Conference opener against Farleigh Dickinson. The game will be Robert Morris' first home game since Nov. 11 after five in a row away from the Sewall Center.
First Published November 28, 2011 12:00 am